Leadership and Israel’s New Social Contract

by Shirlee Harel

Mahatma Gandhi recognized an essential component of effective leadership: “We must become the change we want to see in the world”. Leaders should lead by example in a manner that reflects their ideals and hopes for the future. However, today we see many modern leaders abusing their positions and manipulating the system for their personal gain. It is a far cry from the vision that Gandhi put forth. Meanwhile, a new generation is discovering its voice, with protestors demanding from their leaders, transparency and a new approach to leadership. The Reut Institute, a non-partisan non-profit organization based in Tel Aviv is taking a leadership role by setting the stage and acting as a strategic agent for change in Israel and the Jewish World. As I walk through Reut’s hallway and look at the black and white photographs of historic Israeli leaders hanging on the walls, I cannot help but feel a great sense of motivation and inspiration. I am proud to be a part of Reut’s team, consisting of young innovators who work with key decision makers to effect long-term change.

Recent outbursts of public protests across Israel, calling for economic and social reform, have presented Reut with a unique opportunity. Reut has taken the lead in acting as a unifying constructive force and has strategically planned how to effect the most change within Israel. Rather than adopting individual leadership, Reut has shown group leadership, where more than one person provides direction to the group as a whole which increases creativity and empowers all team members. Reut aims to bring change to all branches of society by adopting both the top-down and bottom-up approaches and exhibiting leadership on all levels. Gidi Grinstein, the President of the Reut Institute, is participating in the taskforce for the government led by Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg that was mandated to engage the public and recommend changes in outlook and policies. In addition, Talia Gorodess and Gil Murciano from the Reut team co-founded the tent site in Kikar HaMedina (Tel-Aviv’s largest open city square), and participate in the leadership circles of the protestors. Each member of the Reut team is using their personal skills to motivate others and galvanize reform. I am inspired every day coming to work and listening to my colleagues share their experiences about a mind-blowing conversation someone had on Rothchild or a challenging response someone posted on their blog.

While Reut’s leadership drive may seem reactionary, the Reut team has been working for nearly two years on developing a comprehensive approach for social and economic development. Reut is now embarking on a state-wide campaign to present and develop our ideas about Israel’s New Social Contract, in order to generate a national discourse, build coalitions, and work with local civic leadership and with government agencies to transform local communities. Israel’s New Social Contract embraces civil empowerment and lays out a systematic solution for Inclusiveness. Inclusiveness aims to provide a fair opportunity for all Israeli residents to partake in the economic growth and benefit by accumulating and materializing capital. Reut warns that events could turn into an economic and political deadlock; however, this could also be a historic opportunity for a new and compelling vision and social contract.

Reut is taking their leadership to another level by traveling throughout Israel, initiating a cross-Israel campaign of meetings with a variety of stakeholders in order to present and discuss these ideas, and to mobilize community members and public sector professionals towards endorsing this vision and realizing it. They are not only “talking the talk,” they are “walking the walk”. Effective leadership is needed to make Israel’s national protests constructive and Reut is bringing people together and offering them a hopeful vision for the future.

Shirlee Harel is the Director of Development at the Reut Institute located in Tel Aviv, Israel. The views expressed in this article are those of the author.