Thriving Communities – Dr. Ofer Sitbon, Dr. Eilon Schwartz, and Shaharit Fellows

“Communities that thrive, in the places where we all are born and grow old, are an essential space for politics. Thriving communities are the cornerstone for the construction of a state in which the residents’ wellbeing is not just a slogan.”

At the juncture between the individual and his or her freedom and the state and its responsibilities, lies the community.

There are many types of community: Some communities form through a shared attachment to a place—a neighborhood, village, city, or region. Others are formed through a shared heritage or unifying worldview. These latter arise at mosques, synagogues and churches, but also surrounding soccer clubs, choral groups, and factories. For many people, connection to a community is a source of identity, security, fulfillment, creativity, and happiness.

In some circumstances a community can flourish; in others, it will wither. For a community to flourish, it needs an economic policy that enables individuals to live with dignity, gives workers job security, encourages local initiatives and production, and ensures appropriate medical care for all. For a community to develop, it needs a social policy that establishes an educational and cultural infrastructure that meets the needs of discrete, unique communities without impinging on civic unity. For a community to blossom, it needs a sustainable development policy that preserves the delicate fabric of neighborhood life while fostering many rich encounters among varied populations in a shared, open public space.

In recent decades, politics in Israel has tended to be engaged in “big questions of principle,” and divorced from the material, quotidian world of the community. Shaharit believes that the rehabilitation of politics—and Israelis’ faith in politics—is essential. This project must be effected with an awareness of the importance—and fragility—of communities and a recognition that flourishing, blossoming communities are vital to reaching political, economic, and cultural harmony in Israel.