|On Sunday 29 November at 5.00pm Laura Barley and Eve Davidson introduced a presentation and discussion on Mahapach-Taghir – Israeli grassroots, feminist, Jewish-Arab organisation which works for social change through education and community empowerment. Joining us from Israel we welcomed speakers Lital Ayalon, Co-Director of Mahapach-Taghir, and Muna Arok and Dana Zarif, Co-Coordinators of the Women’s National Council. They spoke about: “Things we have done and are doing during COVID19 that we’re especially proud of…”|
Links to further Information about Mahapach-Taghir
Inspiring! Visiting one of the charities Menorah supports: Mahapach-Taghir, Yad Eliyahu, Tel Aviv (4 June 2019) Published in Shofar Sept-Dec 2019
Laura Barley and Eve Davidson
Last year for the Kol Nidre appeal, Eve, as the Menorah member with responsibility for Outreach, asked the New Israel Fund for some suggestions for charities we could support. She was particularly struck by the work of Mahapach-Taghir (Hebrew and Arab for ‘change’) which describes itself as grassroots, feminist, Jewish-Arab organisation working for social change through education and empowerment.
During our recent holiday in Israel, Eve asked if I could join her to visit one of the project sites and find out more about their work.
We were met by Jewish Co-Director, Nurit Barak who has been with the organisation for over 8 years, having started, herself as a tutor. Her Co-Director, Fida Nara Abu Dbai, a Palestinian, was sadly unable to join us because of Eid celebrations.
Together we visited the Yad Eliyahu project in the South of Tel Aviv, an area with a high Mizrachi population. The ‘Learning Centre’ project meets in the WIZO building and there we were greeted by the local Coordinator, Dana, and also 2 of the local women, Chaya and Tikva whose lives have really benefitted from the work.
Mahapach-Taghir support a range of women’s projects around Israel, concentrating on poorer communities, some Jewish, some Arab/Palestinian and one working with Eritrean refugees in Jerusalem. They all have the same model:
- Firstly, to empower women in the community to work together and encourage leadership, education and other skills and above all for the women to think for themselves
- Secondly, to develop cross-community projects. In the case of Yad Eliyahu, these centred on a Learning Centre providing after school and holiday care for the women’s children and working with tutors, in this case Arab/Palestinian tutors to help boost the children’s skills. This arrangement with tutors from a different background has proved invaluable in building cross-community relationships and understanding and breaking down barriers to the benefit of all involved. The tutors are given scholarships to support their work and this is funded, in part, from a Government education department. There was concern expressed by Nurit as to whether this Government funding would continue in the future.
We spoke to some amazing, lively, thoughtful 8-year-old girls who explained how they really enjoyed the after-school activities, especially treasure hunts, with homework club activities understandably being less popular.
Chaya explained how the activities empowering women had supported her in training and setting up her reflexology business and she outlined some ideas, as a user of the Centre, where she could help inspire other women, often those who had married young and had missed out on education to take control of their own education and training needs. Chaya stressed that the group of women has to want themselves to take on an activity and emphasised the importance of self-development and reflection on their learning experience. She talked about her work as a role model and supporting a network for women running small businesses.
Dana has worked in several projects and was keen to share that the women wanted in all of them skills to develop themselves, to give them more independence, including economic independence, especially more options for jobs. Dana also saw her role at Yad Eliyahu as building youth leadership working with local teenagers.
We also learnt about the work with Eritrean women refuges in Jerusalem, with their local project focussing on learning Ivrit using ‘critical pedagogy.’
- The third stage is developing a network of alumnae who have benefitted from the projects which then leads to:
- The fourth stage of a national Women’s Council /Assembly where women from all the projects across the country, Jewish and Arab/ Palestinian, meet together to learn from their approach and experience. It was particularly powerful to hear from Tikva, who reflected that women from the Arab / Palestinian communities have similar issues, but in so many ways, their problems were worse. We saw from the website that, for example, a lecture inspired the women activists and mothers from Yad Eliyahu to help them see similarities in the negative experiences of their children within the educational system. This enthused students to think of creative ways to engage and encourage children in the Learning Centres who struggle academically.
Participants held a high belief in Palestinian-Jewish partnerships. The community organizers encourage students to bring a critical and political lens to their community work. They hope to work with their students to practise active partnership that goes beyond meetings and dialogue.
Nurit has also told us about a new project “The Shared Society Scholarships.” This project will aid Jewish and Arab students who volunteer with children and youth.in the project’s Learning Centres. By providing them with scholarships, Arab and Jewish young adults, who are dedicated to the facilitation and cultivation of a shared Israeli society, will be able to fully experience the benefits of academic education. At the same time, the community gains young, devoted and skilled young adults who are able and willing to contribute their time in a constructive and impactful way.
We left the project, reflective, inspired and wanting to share their work with our friends at Menorah.
If you’d like to find out more:
- Do have a look at: www.Mahapach-Taghir.org
- An Irish journalist, Bairbre Flood from the radio station, NewsTalk spent a week in June with Nurit and Fida, making a documentary. You can listen to it here: