Meet Abeer Halabi, Director of Shared Society at Shatil
When Abeer Halabi was 12 years old, she convinced her parents to buy her a pantsuit rather than the new dress bought yearly in honor of the Druze festival of Eid El Adha, a daring request in her traditional Druze village of Daliat El Carmel. The next day was rainy and cold, and while Halabi was on an errand for her mother, she crossed paths with a boy walking through a puddle who, unlike her, had no coat, boots or umbrella. “I couldn’t celebrate the holiday after seeing that,” Halabi recalls more than 40 years later. “I couldn’t even wear the pantsuit.”
Despite her cheery demeanor and upbeat attitude, Halabi’s sadness and anger in the face of injustice and inequality never left her. While studying social work in university, she joined an NGO promoting democracy and shared society and received NIF funding. She was soon elected to the city council. Halabi secured a position as a probation officer in an Arab community in the North, but found that the her impact there as social worker was limited. “We were putting out the small fires,” she said. “We couldn’t change anything. I wanted to change things.”
Halabi went on to study group facilitation and conflict resolution, ran dozens of women’s and other dialogue groups, trained group leaders, and directed a number of civil society projects. She earned a master’s degree in social work at Tel Aviv University with an emphasis in women and gender studies. She lectured about life as a Palestinian citizen of Israel and about women caught between tradition and modernity, traveling to the U.S. Germany, Turkey and Jordan in Israeli-Palestinian delegations and leadership groups.
After returning from two years in the U.S. where her husband worked on a research project for the National Institutes of Health, Halabi decided to take on a leadership role in shared society work and in shaping discourse of shared society in Israel. By chance, the perfect position for Halabi opened up: Shatil’s Director of Shared Society initiatives.
Halabi has worked at Shatil for two years. In that time, she has strengthened shared society grassroots initiatives and built the capacity of shared society and Palestinian-Israeli organizations. She co-runs Shatil’s Directors’ Forum for a Shared Society with Shatil Director, Esther Sivan, and she launched a Lowering the Walls anti-racism program in Haifa. Together with the NIF/Shatil leadership, Halabi is overseeing a strategic planning process for Shatil’s shared society work. Her vision includes Shatil organizing the arena of shared society, strengthening relationships between organizations working in this space, and bringing together activists working on shared society in order to create a structure for joint endeavors based on equality and shared leadership.
Halabi is optimistic about the possibility of building a truly shared society in Israel. “I believe there is hope for the development of a shared society in Israel that is based on mutual respect and solidarity,” she says. “I believe we can build a society in which each and every one of us has equal value; in which each and every one of us has the opportunity to influence and in which the differences between us are seen as an asset that enriches us and not as a barrier or limitation…”
“I am honored to be working to make a difference in our part of the world along with my amazing colleagues at Shatil and NIF,” Halibi said.