While the Arab-Israeli conflict plays itself out in headlines and international meetings, Israeli Jews and Arabs contend with their own tensions daily in thousands of mixed workplaces in Israel. In an effort to stimulate open communication and dialogue, SHATIL's Workplace Dialogue project brings Jewish and Arab workers in various institutions together to address issues of concern.
Most recently, 27 lecturers, department heads and managers from all sectors at the multi-cultural Tzfat Academic College gathered for two days under SHATIL's guidance to explore issues of discrimination and inequity in today's complex political reality, as well as the relationship between politics and the academy and its reverberations on campus. On the agenda were such hot topics as the participation of members of one group in the remembrance days of the other group; issues related to language and cultural differences and unequal power relations – issues that would not come up for discussion in other contexts.
The meeting was the initiative of the College, which is interested in encouraging its multicultural staff to openly discuss Arab-Jewish relations and in creating a suitable educational environment for students of all sectors.
"We planned on having one group but because of the response, we had to form two groups,” said Dalia Halabi, a SHATIL consultant who helped lead the session. "It was a very meaningful encounter on the human level. People from different sectors – some of whom had never met because they teach on different days – got to know one another and spoke about these issues together for the first time in a relaxed and accepting atmosphere. People were very careful but also very willing to participate. Everyone who came did so voluntarily during their school vacation and everyone expressed an interest in continuing."
The retreat came at the request of the College's dean who approached SHATIL after a successful SHATIL dialogue project with students in the College's preparatory year. "Workplace Dialogue" is part of SHATIL'S Conflict Transformation and Management Center.