Reflections on “Building Bridges and Healing Rifts”
We hope that those of you who were able to join us found our briefing with the Abraham Initiatives as insightful and powerful as we did. We were honoured to be joined by Shahira, Ronen, Ruth, and Anton as they led us through their work bringing together Jewish and Palestinian Israelis in Haifa, Ramle, and across Israel.Friday 17th June for a breakfast briefing at the Arlington with Itach-Ma’aki – Women Lawyers for Social Justice on their work promoting gender equality in local government & conflict resolution. More information about the event can be found below.If you weren’t able to join us, you can find some of the key takeaways from the events below. And if work around equality and diversity is your passion, sign up to join us again on
Who are the Abraham Initiatives?The Abraham Initiatives bring together political and community leaders from across Israel to make Israel “a state which is the national homeland of the Jewish people and a full, complete and equal home for its Arab-Palestinian national minority”. They joined us en route to Northern Ireland where leaders from Israel’s mixed cities met with political leader and people in Northern Ireland involved in the peace process, sharing their knowledge on how to build a truly shared society. “I don’t think that the residents of Ramle deal on a daily basis with the nationality question – who’s a Jew and who’s an Arab” Ronen Rotstein is a council member in his hometown of Ramle, a mixed city in the centre of Israel that experienced violence in May 2021. Ronen was at a mixed Iftar in Ramle the day before the violence broke out. He was shocked that violence would happen in Ramle, a usually peaceful city. Thanks to the work of the Ramle council bringing people together and combatting the far right, the violence subsided within 5 days. Before this, the question of nationality was rarely discussed in Ramle. Afterwards it was unavoidable. “Until recently we saw no understanding by decision makers that we need to acknowledge mixed cities” Ruth Lewin-Chen is the Director of Shared Cities at the Abraham Initiatives, working to make sure that leaders are working to promote a shared society in Israel. She has been instrumental in bringing together leaders from across mixed cities to make long-lasting changes for a more just and shared space. A mayor in a mixed city can decide what services communities can get. The Abraham Initatives are working to make sure that it’s not left up to political opinion, that everyone gets the services they need. “I don’t want to be a guest in this house, I want to build the house together”
Shahira Shalaby is the former deputy mayor of Haifa and before that worked for NIF’s training arm Shatil. Now she is a councillor in Haifa working to make the city more shared. Haifa has become an example of how you can make a city that is shared by all. As she said “We have to decide that we want to live together…I don’t want separated places and I don’t want mixed places, I want shared places”.
Shahira ShalabyFormer deputy mayor of Haifa and city councillor. Shahira was among the founders of the Palestinian Feminist Movement in Israel and has established several initiatives and organisations working to improve the status of Arab women in Israel. She is engaged in social activism at the local, national, and international levels. She holds a masters’ degree in Religious Studies, and a bachelor’s degree in Social Work. Shahira has consulted for social change organisations on issues of leadership, planning and strategic thinking, teamwork, developing and managing resources, and community work. She is a group facilitator, specialising in dialogue and conflict resolution, as well as facilitator training.
Ronen RotsteinRamla Council Member. Born and raised in Ramla, Ronen has been a council member since 2018. Over this time he has held portfolios including youth and informal education and public transportation. Ronen was one of the founding members of the Abraham Initiatives Mixed Cities Leadership Forum and is a long-time social activist working passionately on education, youth and shared society in the city. Being a member of the Forum has allowed Ronen to bring his years of experience and passion to the work of the Abraham Initiatives.
Ruth Lewin-ChenDirector of Shared Cities, Abraham Initiatives. Ruth is an experienced director of conflict resolution programmes and advocate for the representation of women in decision-making positions in the local council of Mevasseret. For the past decade, Ruth has been promoting a shared society in Israel, mainly through the facilitation of dialogue groups of Arab and Jewish youth in various frameworks including Seeds of Peace, Givat Haviva, and YMCA International in Jerusalem, and by developing knowledge on social movements in Shatil and the New Israel Fund. Ruth received a Bachelor’s in Psychology and Comparative Literature and a Master’s in Organizational Sociology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Anton GoodmanInternational Director of Development, Abraham Initiatives. Anton joined The Abraham Initiatives in 2013 to direct the Resource Development efforts. Prior to joining the Abraham Initiatives, Anton was the Jewish Agency’s senior emissary to Washington DC and received the Emissary of Excellence award in 2013. From 2002-2010 Anton created a series of grass-roots social initiatives tackling contemporary challenges in Israeli society through the lens of Jewish identity. Anton is married to Anat, lives in Tzur Hadassah, and is proud that his four children see him working towards Jewish-Arab partnership, imagining and realising a shared future for Israeli society.