Shagi is a new social initiative that deals with amending social wounds in the Israeli society and creating a tolerant and open dialogue through mutual learning. This is achieved by having groups from different cultures meet, and by offsetting stigmas and prevalent stereotypes.
The initiative started 4 years ago by Itai Epstein—a student at IDC Herzliya College — after being inspired by President Reuven Rivlin’s ‘Tribe speech’. Today, Shagi operates all across Israel- from Be’er Sheva to Haifa, and works with approximately 500 participants from different cultural groups. The initiative has two parts – meetings between Jewish and Arab youth, and between Haredi and secular Jews.
The meetings between Jews and Arabs are based on learning a language and communicating as a bridge towards forming connections. During the meetings, participants teach each other their language, both in Jewish schools and in Arabic schools. In Jewish high-schools, students from the Arab community assist in teaching spoken Arabic. In Arab schools, Jewish students help with practicing spoken Hebrew. Afterwards, the students practice and engage in activities such as games and reading. In addition to the meetings, there are also socialization events, and the students visit universities together.
Meetings between secular and Haredi students are held in cooperation with Plugta initiative, and include dialogue and discussion of conflicts that exist between secular and Haredi Jews- military conscription, Shabat and public spaces, etc. Participants gain knowledge, and in the process stigmas are addressed, and interpersonal connections are therefore formed. At the end of the year, the participants organize a final event in which family members and friends are invited to participate in an open dialogue led by the graduates of the program.
As the new 2019-2020 school year begins, we are thrilled and proud to include the Shagi initiative in Mabat’s programming, within the framework of our work to promote a multicultural society in Israel. This is a part of our expansion into places where we have not worked previously — our goal is to reach new target audiences and populations.