A New Vision for Israeli Society + Update on Flexigidity and Fighting the BDS
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A New Vision for Israeli Society + Update on Flexigidity and Fighting the BDS

In recent weeks, Reut’s presented its model on how to turn around urban communities. Just over the past week, we have presented this vision to and worked with the leadership of the Israel Association of Community Centers (HaHevra Le’Matnasim), Police Commanders, Minister of Educ

Dear friends and supporters,

I want to dedicate this update to Reut’s recent work in envisioning Israeli society, based on our work in Tsfat since the spring of 2011, but wanted to begin with two quick general updates:

- The Kerry Plan and Fighting the BDS – These two topics are taking a long of my personal attention in recent weeks, as Reut’s work since 2006 is acutely relevant. I am attaching the recent update I sent out two weeks ago, and here is a link to an interview on how to fight the de-legitimization of Israel and the BDS movement I gave in i24 News this week. Here is also a link to Reut presentation on Israel’s national security at the INSS conference delivered in January.

- Flexigidity: The Secret of Jewish Adaptability – This book details the ideology, which led to the founding of Reut and has guided its work since, viewing Zionism as a permanently evolving ideology (“Zionism is a verb, not a noun!”). It is receiving great endorsements from across the denominational and political spectrum, as well as from academics (see attached). I would love your help in distributing it to your friends and to all and any organizations and institutions that you feel may benefit from it. Please email me back and we’d love to send you some materials.

Now to Reut’s work on Israel’s societal vision:

In recent weeks, Reut’s is transitioning to presenting its model on how to turn around urban communities. Just over the past week, we have presented this vision to and worked with the leadership of the Israel Association of Community Centers (HaHevra Le’Matnasim), Police Commanders, Minister of Education, and Birthright Excel group.

This work seeks to address the crisis of Israel’s middle class, based on the pilots in Tsfat and the Western Galil. With our partners – Raya Strauss Ben-Dror, UJA Federation of NYC, the Russell Berrie Foundation, and others – we are exploring new approaches to generate high economic growth, which is inclusive and sustainable in order to realize the ISRAEL 15 Vision.

Reut now believes that the most appropriate vision for Israeli society is to become a network of prosperous and resilient communities. The foundations of this argument are laid out in Flexigidity, in the different sections that deal with the Flexigidity of Structure of Judaism and then of Zionism. We believe that such a network will support social cohesion, enhance transformative local leadership and vibrant local identity, Jewish and other, catalyze high and inclusive growth on the national level, and poverty alleviation and prosperity on the local levels, and increase resilience in time of crisis.

This is a global challenge, not just an Israeli problem. The middle class around the world suffers from a fourfold-whammy of stagnating salaries, decreasing quality and quantity of public services, rising cost of living in real terms, and shrinking employment opportunities. Consequently, societal gaps have been growing, between the small minority that enjoys a cycle of affluence at the top and a growing number of people that are unemployable at the bottom.

We know that high, sustainable and inclusive growth necessitates that a large section of society participates in growth and benefits from it. Meanwhile, in recent years most economic growth came from a relatively small group. For example, in Israel, an estimated five percent of the labor force has been driving the remarkable Start-Up Nation phenomenon. The rest have been struggling, albeit to different degrees, until the explosion of the wide-spread social protests in the summer of 2011. The pledge of the government that growth and prosperity will trickle down remained idle.

Effective resolution of this crisis requires creating new societal knowledge, which builds not only on cross-disciplinary academic knowledge, but also on local and practical experiences and experiments. Its focus should be on rebuilding societal capital – human, social and economic – in the middle class, which will improve competitiveness and productivity.

Israel’s network of interconnected communities must have strong local institutions and civic leadership. Reut believes that community-building is not only the DNA of the Jewish world and a powerful legacy of Zionism, but also crucial to Israel’s prosperity, resilience and Jewishness. Therefore, Reut has identified eight local community ‘platforms,’ e.g. community centers (Matnasim), early childhood centers and youth centers, which are pillars of every successful community, in which households, individuals and small businesses are empowered.

Reut’s focus on development at a local level stems from the confluence of two powerful and consistent trends: the continued decline in the capacity of the Government of Israel to deal with complex issues such as inclusiveness and poverty, and the rise of local leadership, which assumes greater responsibility by collaborating on a regional level. In short, we believe that the vibrancy of local communities and their leadership will be the most powerful engine propelling Israel to greater prosperity and security.