The U.S. Department of State has awarded two grants, totaling $770,000, to Merchavim, The Institute for the Advancement of Shared Citizenship in Israel, an NGO that works to help all of Israel’s 7.6 million citizens become more comfortable with the diversity that characterizes Israeli society. The new funds will be used to significantly expand an existing project of Merchavim and to help launch a new strategic initiative, titled Kulanana. Together, these efforts will target young citizens from kindergarten through their twenties, where inter-group attitudes are most negative and the opportunities for change are greatest.

An award of $750,000 was made to Merchavim for its collaborative project with Sesame Workshop – the non-profit educational organization that produces Rechov Sumsum, Israel’s “Sesame Street” – and HOP! – Israel’s leading children’s television company. The initiative is co-funded by – and run in full cooperation with – Israel’s Ministry of Education. Approximately 1,200 kindergarten teachers – Jewish and Arab, secular and religious – will be trained jointly to use a new generation of specially-produced Hebrew and Arabic outreach tools for kindergarten, family and community. Thirty-six thousand children and their families will benefit directly, while hundreds of thousands more will participate in the program through television broadcasts and the internet, featuring professionally-edited, user-generated content from kindergartens and families of all backgrounds from across Israel.

A $20,000 grant was also made to Kulanana to develop a training manual. Kulanana, a consortium of NGO, government, business and philanthropic partners, is an ambitious new society-building initiative targeted primarily at the 16-29 year-old demographic. The initiative will address the five deepest divides in Israeli society today: between Jews and Arabs; among Jews; between immigrant and veteran Israelis; among Arabs; and between rich and poor. To combat these divides, Kulanana will work closely with government, business and philanthropy to promote the initiative’s three major themes – citizenship, diversity and fairness. Informed by Merchavim’s consensual “shared citizenship” approach developed over the past twelve years, major programming will include media outreach, volunteerism, educational and government-relations projects, all complemented by a sustained media campaign using traditional and new platforms, such as social networking.

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