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A one-day seminar in the North of Israel with the Manof Forum focused on entrepreneurship in the geographical periphery of Israel as a tool for inter-cultural inclusiveness and cultural pluralism. On the one hand it is considered to be a periphery, which faces security threats as well as economic and social challenges, on the other hand, the diversity of the population is oftentimes an unexpected engine for an unusual development in different areas.
Thus, it was of importance to explore these phenomena of the North with the Manof members, many of which are senior political advisors to politicians, CEOs of social organizations, civil servants, lawyers and business owners, not only as an educational endeavor, but also in order to create connections and cooperation for the promotion of this area.
The group’s first stop was at the “Kineret Innovation Center”, an entrepreneurial community and innovation hub on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, which focuses on agriculture and food technology solutions in particular. The Center aims to attract and develop new ideas, start-up entrepreneurs, investments, and enterprises in the North of Israel. The goal is to create economic levers and local employment opportunities in the region. Leading high-tech, agro-tech and security-tech entrepreneurs presented their ideas and projects. Some of these projects were already implemented in Israel and abroad. The group discussed with the representatives of “Kineret Innovation Center” how proper policies can create powerful economic growth; specifically using the advantages of the Northern periphery, allowing social mobilization for young people with different backgrounds.
The next item on the agenda was a visit to the Bedouin town Zarzir in the Galilee. This town, as well as many other Bedouin towns and villages across Israel, is very well known for its high rates of military service recruits and successful integration into Israeli society in general. A meeting was convened in a Bedouin restaurant owned by a family that has been builiding bridges between Jews and Arabs in the northern district for generations.
El’ad Shamir, the CEO of the Kineret Innovation Center”, joined the group for the talks in Zarzir, though in a different capacity as he is also the founder of an NGO, which encourages strategic, economic and social change in the North of Israel. One of its main goals is to foster a civil service in Arab and Bedouin communities as a tool to help young Arabs to better integrate into the labor market and civil life in Israel. Shamir spoke about the challenges and the boundaries in Arab society but also in the Israeli bureaucratic system with regard to this issue. He introduced young local Jewish and Arab leaders, who do not hesitate to go from door to door and to convince young people and their families to join this endeavor. One of them, a young Bedouin, told the group how the civil service saved him from a wrong path in life. Today he is one of the leading figures in this project.
It is common to say that building bridges between groups in society is the responsibility of citizens, but it is also known that without a clear and coherent policy there is no future for such projects. Members of the Manof group are capable of mediating between grassroots organizations and decision-makers, which could in turn lead to new approaches and policies. Many promising connections were made between the participants of Manof and the leaders and entrepreneurs they met.