I was lucky enough to have a life-changing experience that lasted a year. 15 women and men, from different perspectives, came together once a week for 9 hours, to dive in—into depth, width, length, and most importantly, height.
This network of people was incredibly diverse, made up of individuals from different walks of life: from technological integration in start-ups, to consultants in the field of nutrition, to lawyers, to social workers, to city planners, to water engineers, activists, leaders in women’s rights and gender equality, media professionals, community managers, staff from the Ministry of Agriculture, the military, education, and more. This group of people represented different professions but also different touch points: background, age, political views, and perspectives. The result was an ecological and social melting pot, constantly feeding itself and being fed by support: watering, gardening, fresh air, warmth, and anything else it needed.
With the three musketeers who led and facilitated, everyone came together to create a space for learning and curiosity, broke down barriers, and learned a new way of creating.
The fellowship program of the Heschel Center is the oldest and most respected program in sustainability in Israel. The program invites participants to get to know the situation in Israel and around the world from a different perspective, ask new questions, to conceptualize issues in a new way, and to begin creating a new reality, together. This is not an enrichment program, but rather one which targets people who want to take action toward social change.
Thought on the word sustainability
The word sustainability does not fully encapsulate the conceptual essence, so here I’ll propose a combination of our perspective on the world, integrated with its utilize in society and the environment. What is the proportionate speed between growth and use in the worlds of industry and economics?
Together, all beings that exist on earth, make up a puzzle: an ecological, environmental human system, where trees absorb what we don’t need, and exude clean air. This ability to renew takes place in the water as well, in rivers, lakes, streams, in the ground, and in the air. When does this not take place? When the pace is too fast for the renewal process to keep up. For example, a beautiful apple tree full of red, sweet apples, grows in my yard. I water it, the fertilizer stimulates the soil, and according to the rate at which the apples grow I pick them as needed.
This relationship, which worked for our ancestors has changed. We became a global village, becoming closer and more connected through Whatsapp, Facebook, Email, and Instagram. It’s easy and simple to update where we are in an earthquake. There is abundance—any product that I want is available to me (for the most part) within a 15 minute period of driving or pushing a button. Our consumption from the apple tree is much faster, because we don’t see how many hands are virtually “picking” the apples at the same time from the same tree, and there is enough for everyone.
What is progress?
Progress is a flexible and ever-changing system of living tissues, human being, animals, and plants that make up a specific space together.
Each week in the program, we were concerned about the same question: how can we communicate our message to as many people as possible? In my words, how do we move together, rooted in our curiosity and desire toward welfare—and not just revenue. In my opinion, the answer lies in the art of listening. Our ability to feel awe, interest, and humility when facing the natural mechanisms that existed millions of years before us, and will be there millions of years after us.
How do we maintain the environment, the way we received it, still abundant for our children, and their children? What is economic growth, and why are there still enormous pockets of poverty in a world of abundance? How is this connected to the ongoing crisis with climate change?
We had many questions, and some quick answers: that each and everyone one of us would promote these matters in their daily work, something small in each of our fields that would reflect our opinions, ideas, hopes, and frustrations. This magical experience continues to guide me today.
335 over 19 years!
The program’s hundreds of alumni are spread across Israeli society, Jews and Arabs, secular and religious, and from all geographic locations. They include architects and jurists, advertisers and planners, politicians and industrial workers, directors in the public and non-profit sectors, as well as senior leaders in infrastructure, education, and the health system, including:
Nitzan Horowitz – journalist, member of Knesset, and head of the Democratic Union
Galit Cohen – Deputy Director of Planning and Policy at the Ministry of the Environment
Professor Itamar Groto – Deputy Director of the Ministry of Health
Dr. Siham Kakoush Uthamna – Head of Public Health in the city of Baqa al-Gharbiya
Uriel Babchik – Architect and head of green planning at the Tel Aviv municipality
Riva Waldman – Head of the center for environmental education at Hiriya Recycling Park
Dov Khenin – Former Member of Knesset
Ram Eisenberg – architect, environmental planner, and lecturer at the Technion
Chaim Rivlin – TV writer
Yuval Tamari – Principal of the Leah Goldberg Waldorf School in Givatayim
Noam Shefer – Head of the Ayanot Youth Village
Dr. Hussein Tarbiyeh – founder and CEO of the city’s union for environmental protection at the Beit Netofa Valley
Alon Piltz – CEO and owner of Dizengoff Center
And many more
Together, we are a community that is constantly moving, changing, and flowing; learning, integrating, and researching; supporting.
This year, the Heschel Center launched a number of courses and online programs, to allow more people to promote change together. This source of adventure and curiosity is open to you too!
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