Halleli Bosri, a participant in the Hannaton Mechina this year, wrote the following reflections, after participating in a seminar on social activism:
“One whose wisdom exceeds his deeds, to what is he like? To a tree whose branches are many, but his roots are few; and the wind comes and plucks it up and overturns it upon its face… But he whose deeds exceed his wisdom, to what is he like? To a tree whose branches are few, but whose roots are many, so that even if all the wןnds in the world come and blow upon it, it cannot be stirred from its place…” – R. Elazar, son of Azaryah, Mishnah, Avot 3:17
This year we took part in a seminar on activism. After five months at the Mechina, which were devoted primarily to introspection, and formulating an ideology and positions on different issues, we now had the opportunity to go out in the field, in order to see how the ideological positions we formulated might be expressed in practical social action.
Sponsored by the Yigal Allon Center, during the seminar we learned about the life and work of Janusz Korczak, from someone who lived in the orphanage he ran in Warsaw. We went out in the field, to the Florentin neighborhood of Tel Aviv, to see the graffiti there and to reflect on what social “messages” the creators are attempting to convey. We met the members of HaDag Nachash, (a hip-hop and reggae band, known for its protest songs and activism). We learned about the NGO “Elifelet”, which provides humanitarian aid for children of refugees. Itai, head of the Mechina, gave us a tour of the area around the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, where many African refugees live. We also learned about an innovative think-tank, the Shaharit Institute, which is searching for a “new consensus”, based upon dialogue and partnerships between the different groups in Israeli society. Yotam Akiva gave us a lecture on critical perspectives on Israeli media. Another interesting lecture was given by long-time social activist and Knesset member, Dov Kheinin. We learned about the activities of Milbat, an NGO which works to aid people with physical disabilities. We went to Alma, a center for Israeli culture, where we met its founder, Dr. Ruth Calderon, above, and we heard from Sarit bat Shimol, the mother of a transgender son. We also went out to the streets to engage in informal conversations about social issues and problems.
We met with a variety of activists, each one working in his or her area; yet all are united in a common purpose and passion – to effect social change.
The most important insight I gained from the seminar, was that the inspiring people we met didn’t become passionate or develop an activist perspective through some magical revelation. The changes they have brought about were the result of long hours of dedicated effort. They are common, everyday people who worked hard and didn’t give up. That’s how they’ve succeeded in effecting social change.
With this insight, I left with a feeling of hope and enthusiasm. If hard work is the key to solving problems, then we can all be activists!