Daily Israel Report

Tents to Circles: 10,000 Israelis to Discuss Social Change

A group plans to engage as many as 10,000 Israelis in conversation about social change.
By David Lev
First Publish: 9/7/2011, 2:11 AM

Housing protests
Housing protests
Flash 90

While activists demanding social justice are in the process of packing up their tents, another group is busy setting up tables – for what could be a world record-setting conversation involving as many as 10,000 Israelis.

The Tents to Circles Round Table discussions will, according to organizer Danny Gal, contacted by Arutz Sheva, elicit opinions and ideas from Israelis all over the country on “what next” - after a summer of social protest, where do Israelis want to take their society now?

They'll have a chance to say what's on their mind this coming Saturday night, September 10. “We want to keep the momentum going, but also to reach people who until now have not felt involved in the social protests, for various reasons,” says Gal, who, as director of the Tel Aviv Hub, a space dedicated to encouraging interaction between business people and social activists in the hope of coming up with new and better ways of doing things, has a long history in encouraging dialogue.

“Among the questions we are putting out are what changes are we as a society hoping for, and what are people willing to do to make them happen,” says Gal. “This mass discussion will be a true display of democracy in action on an unprecedented scale worldwide, a conversation between people from all walks of life, leading to the joint creation of insights and ideas,” says Gal.

Tables,1,000 in total, will be set up from 9 PM Saturday night in cities all around the country – including, possibly, Ofra, where Gal's partner in organizing the project, Dr. Shai Ben-Yosef, lives, with the main discussion hub outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

Each table will be equipped with a laptop or smartphone, and the content – and conclusions, if any – of the discussions going on around the table will be transmitted to an editorial desk, where the best ideas and most “unique” quotes will be displayed on giant screens outside the Museum.

“Such discussions have been held around the tents since the first day the protests began earlier in the summer,” says Gal. “They enabled and encouraged people who never met before to connect and discuss the urgent issues of the day. Each meeting leads to practical and creative ideas, and generates new connections which lead to further action and impact. We are going to bring it to another level on Saturday night, with a simultaneous circle, nation-wide. Our main goal is to let as many views as possible be heard, and take an active part in shaping the road ahead.”

Gal especially hopes to attract participants who avoided the major protests, for various reasons – especially members of the religious and Hareidi communities, and residents of Judea and Samaria.

“I think the reason these groups have avoided the protests until now is because they felt unwanted – that the protests were the 'property' of groups they had nothing in common with, or who were hostile to them,” says Gal. “Out” groups, including Yesha residents, religious and Hareidi Israelis, and Arab Israelis, have plenty to say about how they see society, and their opinions are crucial if there is to be change."

Ben-Yosef also has a background in encouraging dialogue. Ben-Yosef, a community organizer, is active in the Eretz Shalom organization, which bills itself as “a social movement which works toward the advancement of peace and dialogue between the Jewish and Arab inhabitants of Judea and Samaria” and has recently visited the mosque torched after the MIgron houses demolition.

“I can certainly understand why the 'out groups' have been reluctant to participate – no one wants to go where they are not wanted. But we really do want everyone to participate, and to try to get over the suspicions and sectarianism our society seems to encourage,” Gal says. We aim to build a genuine connection between all Israelis, not a false camaraderie, based on honest discussion,” he says of the ambitious project.