Profiles in Courage: The Next Israeli Chalutzim (Pioneers)
By Susie Sorkin
Sometimes, living an ordinary Israeli life takes a courage that most Americans never have to face. Residents of Sderot live with the reality that at any moment they will have 15 seconds to get into the nearest shelter. Soldiers live with the knowledge that when attacks happen, their job is to charge, not to retreat. Of course, most Israelis don’t face these physical dangers in their daily life. But the Israelis we met on our Consultation trip, showed remarkable courage in daring to dream and daring to fufill those dreams.
This next generation of chultzim (pioneers) are no longer content to let the government solve (or not solve) society’s problems or let the current social inequalities remain. Here are just a few of the courageous Israelis we met this week:
Anwar Alh’jooj & Akiva Leibowitz – the co-chairs of the board of the HAGAR school, who helped found a school whose mission is to promote Jewish Arab education equality. They believe that all children deserve the right to learn equally and together. Against a backdrop of distrust and fear, they have built a community where not just the children become friends, but the parents do as well. They inspire others in Be’ersheba and beyond to see the possibilities of a shared dream for Israel.
Yehoshua is an Ultra Orthodox law student at Hebrew University and a member of the Shluechi Tsibur program, who is proudly completing his studies and plans to accept a summer position at the Supreme Court. He still must keep his studies secret from his community for fear that his seven children will be ostracized. Yet, he, and the other Haredi students we met with at this program, believe so strongly that they can no longer sit by and let others take part in fulfilling the overall dream of Israeli’s future. Moreover, they do not want the media’s image of Haredi “monsters” to be the only image most Israelis see of their community. These Israelis know that they are on the cutting edge (not a term usually associated with the Haredi) and that their position is risky, but they believe that they are paving the way for future generations to be more integrated into Israeli society.
Ranit Budaie-Hyman is a recent graduate of our stellar Gvanim program. As her action project, she started a Gvanim-Knesset program to try to open the eyes of influential parliamentary advisors and spokespersons to pluralistic values in Israel. Through the program, she inspired them to find the courage bring up difficult issues to their ministers. They were influential in encouraging the government to finally implement the new mixed schools (combined religious and secular) law.
I was continually inspired by the extraordinary people that we met on our visit. Their courage, energy and spirit bode very well for Israel’s future.