Our Deliberative Dialogue project aims to mend the growing rifts, and reverse the decline in cooperation between different sectors of Israeli society by resolving conflicts between them. Both of these phenomena directly threaten the health of Israeli democracy.
Societal problems in Israel are often solved by one group imposing its will on the other rather than groups in conflict working together. Most sectors of society in Israel, including Arabs; the ultra-Orthodox; and the Bedouin, take part in democratic elections, and have representation in the Knesset and local government. This representation, to varying degrees, enjoy the protection of their civil rights, such as freedom of expression and freedom to protest. Yet, political discourse and political processes, whether in Knesset or on the streets, are based upon the "politics of confrontation," rather than the "politics of cooperation and consensus."
Our Deliberative Dialogue Activities help groups in conflict address problems together by facilitating constructive engagement between them. We target representative groups within society, including a group of 40 members of Knesset, groups of ultra-Orthodox rabbis, Muslim leaders, Arab and Jewish women, community workers, academics, and more.
Discussions go well beyond different groups stating their positions on any given topic. Rather, through these facilitated deliberations, participants come to understand the values driving the others' positions. They are able to see and consider what we call the "trade-offs", or the potential costs of any decisions they may make about a given issue. One of our goals is that more informed, inclusive and well-considered decisions will be made by more and more leaders and policy makers.
During the 2014-2015 year, we are facilitating in-depth deliberation around issues such as: The Role of Education in Fostering Relations Between Arab and Jewish Citizens; Gender Roles in Traditional (Jewish and Arab/Muslim) Societies; Violence Among Youth; The Legal Status of Arab Citizens of Israel; How we as a Society Care for our Elderly and Infirm; and more.
Our methodology was developed in cooperation with the Kettering Foundation, a leading research institution based in Dayton, Ohio in the United States. So far, we have engaged over 400 participants directly through deliberation sessions. An additional 1,000 to 2,000 have observed and taken part in public events including "round-tables" and on-stage conferences. Several radio broadcasts introduced the concepts to a broad public audience.