Tomorrow’s Spaces

Facing Tomorrow, President Shimon Peres’ first annual conference took place in Jerusalem, May 13-15, 2008.

This international convocation examined the trends and developments that are mapping the future with the hope of serving as an incubator for proactive responses. The conference consisted of three interweaving dimensions: the global tomorrow, the Jewish tomorrow and the Israeli tomorrow.

Facing Tomorrow was envisioned as a laboratory for practical initiatives intended to nurture the practical initiatives of Israel, of the Jewish people and of humanity. “…and will afford it the intellectual fertility, curiosity, and enthusiasm any meaningful consideration of tomorrow requires” (Israeli President Shimon Peres).

One component was a featured exhibit, “Tomorrow’s Spaces”, an original exhibition of entrepreneurial projects, designed to provide a stage for leading scientific innovations strategically valuable to our future as a State, a people and member of a community of nations.

eJewish Philanthropy brings you an introduction to the exhibition along with a brief look at the eleven featured projects from the social sector of Israeli society.

The Exhibition Synopsis: Since the beginning of time, the world’s history has been intertwined with the achievements of Jewish philosophers, visionaries, scientists and inventors who transformed the lives of nations and people through their ingenuity.

These men and women have influenced every aspect of life: social thinking, culture, philosophy, religion, science, medicine, industry, technology. And yet, despite these varied realms of achievement, all these people shared a common link: they all sought a better, more just and more advanced future for all mankind.

This proud list of Jewish accomplishment has been reinforced with the establishment of the State of Israel.

Since that day, hundreds of internationally acclaimed inventions and innovations were made here and went on to make a decisive contribution in the fields of science, agriculture, medicine and technology. From the cherry tomato to ICQ’s instant messaging, from Netafim’s drip irrigation to Teva’s groundbreaking medication.

In its sixty years of existence, a small country, deprived of any substantial natural resources and under permanent existential threat has turned into a giant in innovation and research that contribute to a better future worldwide. There is no equivalent to this ratio between population size and the impact of ideas here conceived. There is no other nation of comparative size that has been such a font of creative contribution to the world.

This heritage has motivated the conference steering committee to seek out the new ideas, products and technologies that will help shape the face of tomorrow.

Those who wish to shape tomorrow face myriad challenges: developing alternative energy sources, conserving Nature’s resources, prolonging and improving human life and much more. One can find Israeli initiatives aiming to address nearly every one of these challenges.

A large team of experts came together to help us locate and carefully select the most mature ideas, those already in various stages of implementation and with proven concepts. Ideas that purport to provide a unique, pioneering solution to the problems and challenges they seek to address.

Of the hundreds of applications the panel of judges reviewed, sixty projects have been selected. It wasn’t an easy choice. The panel looked at many brilliant and novel ideas developed by tireless entrepreneurs seeking to resolve the world’s problems with that rare combination of effective and practical solutions.

The sixty projects on display are a representative group of these initiatives. They provide a glimpse of contemporary “Jewish genius” and Israeli resourcefulness in a wide variety of interests.

We believe that among these projects lie the potential seeds of the next breakthrough, the next revolution in Israel and the world. The desire for a better future and solutions for the problems of tomorrow in the Israeli-Jewish and global spheres is one all conference participants must share. This desire also permeates the tens of thousands of Israeli entrepreneurs, inventors, researchers, scientists and industrialists who stand at the forefront of Israeli innovation. They are the secret of Israel’s success and endurance and the reason it is so important to the entire world, as the cradle of a better future.

The Social Projects: (all information on the projects was provided by the project)

  • Access Israel Association
  • Circles of Justice
  • Maala
  • Massa, Israel Journey
  • Quranet
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel
  • The Center for Educational Technology
  • The Interfaith Encounter Association
  • The International Institute for Jewish and Israeli Culture
  • The Rashi Foundation
  • Unistream

Access Israel Association: founded in 1999 in order to serve the large disabled population in Israel. Their aim is to assist with the promotion and integration of people with disabilities into Israeli society and enable them to achieve a life of dignity, respect and maximum independence.

The fulfillment of this vision through its unique projects enables people with disabilities to live in honor and equality allowing them to fulfill their personal potential.

In the 21st century, the State of Israel is still not accessible. Unlike in other Western Countries, in the State of Israel most public buildings, municipal offices, courts, clinics, museums, theaters, hotels, playgrounds, parks, commercial areas etc. are not accessible to people with disabilities. Therefore, they are closed to this public, their families and friends, preventing people with disabilities from enjoying and using such facilities and living an equal and normal life.

The goals of Access Israel include:

  • Making as many public locations as possible accessible.
  • Promoting equality between people with disabilities and society on the whole.
  • Increasing awareness among the general public, planners and decision makers regarding accessibility.
  • Promoting assistive technology and accessibility of information (via the Internet, cellular, television, software and appliances).
  • Promoting employment of people with disabilities in the open market.
  • Improving professional knowledge regarding accessibility among planners, architects and engineers.
  • Improving service to people with disabilities in the government and business sectors.

Circles of Justice: Imagine for a moment a State of Israel in which parents can make enough money to support their families with dignity, rather than being denied their legally mandated wages; where public spaces are easily accessible to individuals with disabilities, rather than offering them a dead end.

Imagine a Jewish State worthy of its name.

Bema’aglei Tzedek (Circles of Justice) does more than just imagine a brighter future for Israeli society. It takes concrete action to achieve its’ vision of a just Israeli society in accordance with the value of Tzedek (social justice), as informed and inspired by Jewish tradition over the ages.

Bema’aglei Tzedek was established in 2004 by a group of young and dynamic social activists who strongly believed that Jewish tradition had much to contribute to the socioeconomic discourse in Israeli society.

Bema’aglei Tzedek operates various practical and educational projects nationwide, which enable the public to change harmful and illegitimate social norms through their everyday actions.

Our main project is the “social seal” – this certificate is awarded, free of charge, to businesses which commit to basic social criteria: their conditions of employment and the accessibility of their business to people with disabilities. Correspondingly, Bema’aglei Tzedek appeals to the public to patronize places that have this social seal.

For it’s continued efforts, Bema’aglei Tzedek won Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur Of The Year award for 2007-8.

Maala: The Maala Ranking & Index: In its efforts to enhance corporate social responsibility in Israel, Maala, Business for Social Responsibility, has developed the Maala Ranking and the Maala Index.

The ranking was launched in 2003 and is based on criteria in five main areas of corporate social responsibility: Business Ethics, Workplace and Human Rights, Community Investment, Environment and Corporate Governance.

A committee of experts and public figures, together with McKinsey & Co, prepares and updates the Ranking’s criteria. The ranking process itself is conducted by Maalot Standard and Poor’s and audited by Ernst & Young. Data for the Index is collected through corporate questionnaires, financial statements and information reviewed by an environmental analyst.

The Maala Index, Corporate Social Responsibility in Israel, was launched on the TASE in 2005. The Index is comprised of the 20 leading companies found in the Maala Ranking of corporate social responsibility, which comply with the requirements of the TA 100 Index. Companies in the Index represent a wide range of sectors, including services and trade, industry, construction and infrastructure.

Since its inception, the Maala Index has traded in a close correlation to the TA 100 Index, making it an attractive tool for investors. The Index presents a unique opportunity for investors, philanthropists and philanthropic fund managers to make a real difference and influence Israel while providing a responsible return on investment.

Massa, Israel Journey: MASA Israel Journey is a flagship initiative of the Government of Israel, the Jewish Agency for Israel and its partners worldwide.

Serving as an umbrella for over 150 different Israel experience programs, MASA brings to Israel thousands of young Jewish adults, ages 18 to 30, from communities around the world for a semester to a year in order to study, volunteer, and gain critical professional and life skills.

MASA calls upon us to envision a radically different Jewish future for the next generation: a future in which ever-increasing numbers of young Jews will experience a transformative, long-term, Israel program. Research demonstrates that a long-term Israel experience is a proven gateway into Jewish life for many of today’s unaffiliated Jews and, for others, a vehicle for deepening their Jewish connection.

By bringing thousands of young Jews to Israel, MASA will reach a tipping point with the potential of transforming the attitude of a generation of Jews toward Israel and their Judaism.

MASA aims to deepen engagement with Israel by bringing young Jews to Israel to build enduring, life-long friendships, memories, and connections; and then to send them home as more active and committed Jews.

MASA includes a wide variety of programs suited for different stages in a young person’s life, including: post-high school (GAP year) programs, study abroad academic programs, community service and volunteer programs, and post-university professional internship and career development programs.

Since its inception four years ago, over 25,000 young Jews have attended MASA-affiliated programs in Israel.

Quranet: Quranet transforms the Quran into a unique and useful educational tool for parents and teachers, and thereby renders the beneficial power of the Quran widely accessible. Quranet interweaves the Quran, in unprecedented fashion, with modern educational approaches, thereby helping the Islamic world and the West to better understand each other.

Quranet reveals the beauty of the Quran and its respect for human dignity, thereby providing a resounding response to warped exploitation of the Quran for the justification of terror. Since many issues are common to Islamic and Western culture, we aspire to develop Quranet into a social network in various languages, and create communities with shared interests, thus establishing a bidirectional bridge between the two cultures.

How Does Quranet Operate?

The user selects a particular issue from the table of contents, and receives the relevant Quran verse. He or she can then study a brief description of an everyday event, illustrating how the verse can be utilized to convey a message to the child. The session concludes with a brief educational-psychological explanation of the process.

The material has been developed in Hebrew by a group of Bedouin students of education and their lecturer, Dr. Ofer Grosbard. With an introduction by three distinguished sheikhs, it was recently published in book form by Ben-Gurion University Publishing House.

The conflict is in the mind; Quranet is the solution!

Taglit-Birthright Israel: Widely known as the most successful educational program in the Jewish world, Taglit-Birthright Israel was launched in winter 2000 to ensure Jewish continuity by strengthening Jewish identity among unaffiliated young Jewish adults.

Taglit-Birthright Israel provides young Jews (ages 18-26) with a first time, 10-day educational trip to Israel which strengthens their Jewish identity and their attachment to the Jewish community and to the State of Israel.

Taglit-Birthright Israel has become a flagship of innovation, while bringing unprecedented numbers of Jewish young adults to Israel – 40,000 a year and growing in contrast with 1,500 on all programs prior to the project’s inception.

This dramatic increase has created a critical mass of enthusiastic returnees who are reshaping Jewish life on campus and in their communities.

In Israel, the project has contributed more than a billion shekels to the economy. More importantly, tens of thousands of young Israeli adults, mainly from the IDF, who have participated in structured encounters (‘Mifgashim’ in Hebrew) with their peers from abroad, feel greater pride in being Jewish and Israeli.

Initiated by philanthropists Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt, Taglit-Birthright Israel is a partnership between a select group of international Jewish philanthropists, the Government of Israel and local Jewish communities (through UJC/Federations, KH and JAFI).

An unprecedented generous contribution made by Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson has made the educational trip available to tens of thousands of wait-listed participants.

The Center for Educational Technology: The Center for Educational Technology (CET) has developed “Nahshon”, a virtual mentoring initiative, aimed at opening the gates of higher education for students from Israel’s social and geographic periphery.

For the past four decades CET, an NGO dedicated to the promotion of education in Israel, has established its expertise and reputation by developing state-of-the-art digital content and websites, using top-of the-line technologies.

Nahshon, the virtual mentoring initiative, employs students from top universities and soldiers from elite units to tutor students from the periphery, using innovative long-distance learning technologies. The tutors guide the students to attain the highest possible scores in the national matriculation exams (in math, physics and English). CET’s cutting-edge initiative advances these young students on a personal level and helps strengthen Israeli society by:

  • Creating equal opportunities for all Israeli children while bridging social gaps.
  • Motivating and inspiring students to enter distinguished academic institutions.
  • Equiping students from the periphery with skills that will enable them to play an essential role in Israel’s social and economic life in the global age.

Nahshon is an Israeli initiative developed by CET, the developer of teaching and learning materials, and in cooperation with Sulam – Shared Learning Management System, which was developed at “Har ve-Guy” school, using Microsoft software as the technological foundation; and key people from Microsoft Corporation, who support the initiative professionally, as well as assist in its development and promotion.

The Interfaith Encounter Association: The Interfaith Encounter Association (IEA) aims to develop the human infrastructure for peace by building inter-communal relations characterized by sustainable coexistence. A registered NGO, IEA is recognized by UNESCO as “an organization that contributes to the culture of peace”, and has received awards from the Immortal Chaplains Foundation, the Tanenbaum Center, the Institute for Interreligious Studies and the World Movement for Global Democracy.

IEA’s main tool is apolitical, open and personal dialogue through the study of religious texts, for religious and secular people alike. This ensures meaningful encounters, accentuating shared values while accepting differences, and successfully reaches out to all parts of society, including groups such as Islamists and right-wing Jews who are not commonly accessible. Significant change is effected through the initiatives of ordinary citizens, as participants themselves are empowered to create encounter groups that involve neighboring communities.

Each group develops into a model of friendly and respectful relations, which proves that “what exists is possible” and which transforms inter-communal relations in its immediate surroundings. Hundreds more such groups would be a powerful force for building a future of peaceful coexistence in the Holy Land.

IEA is well on its way to becoming a broad-based popular movement, having sponsored 550 programs with 5,000 participants (most of whom met ‘the other’ for the first time), 27 encounter groups from the Galilee to Eilat (including 2 Israeli-Palestinian, one with settlers and Palestinians), 21 Israeli-Palestinian retreats with five Palestinian partners and 5 Middle-East conferences with additional partners from Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon and more.

The International Institute for Jewish and Israeli Culture: Jewish people worldwide constantly explore the concept of their identity by observing Jewish tradition, studying Jewish history and generating new Jewish culture.

The Virtual Museum of Jewish Theatre and Performing Arts will provide the largest online database of theatre works, representing major trends in Jewish performing arts over the past 600 years. Working in collaboration with leading artists, researchers and academic institutions, it will:

  • Establish a common multimedia platform for intercultural dialogue and artistic collaboration.
  • Bring the rich heritage of Jewish theatre to a wider Jewish and non-Jewish audience.
  • Promote education about cultural preservation and artistic creation.

Using the most advanced tools of information technology to develop a user-friendly online platform, the Virtual Museum will be the foremost research site for Jewish performing arts, containing plays, musical scores, photographs, recordings, academic studies, articles and reviews. Accompanied by a timeline showing the development of Jewish theatre alongside world theatre and history, visitors will surf across geography and time.

As the second phase of All About Jewish Theatre, the only network dedicated to Jewish theatre and performing arts, the Virtual Museum will put all the information on Jewish theatre at your fingertips on one
single website.

The Rashi Foundation: Each September, thousands of promising 1st-graders start school in Israel. Fast-forward 12 years. One-in-five kids drops out of school. Another fifth barely attends class. Only half of all 17 year olds graduate school with a matriculation certificate. Moreover, there is tight correlation between origin, place of residence and socio-economic background and scholastic success.

This waste of potential of our younger generation has alarming implications: a fractured society, acute disparity between periphery and center, deterioration of young adults into illegitimate activities and the loss of human capital.

The Tafnit Program was launched in 2001 by the Rashi Foundation and the Education Ministry to turn this situation around. Tafnit has developed a revolutionary method of reducing learning gaps and leading failing students to matriculation success. Believing that “every child is able”, the school must be committed to students’ success and teachers are the agents of change. Tafnit introduces unconventional accelerated-learning techniques including: breaking the learning routine, ambitious objectives, measurable benchmarks, a motivational process and external monitoring of results. Students experience a chain of success along the path to full matriculation, while a newly motivated cadre of teachers is created.

Since Tafnit’s inception, 5,000 failing students have completed matriculation and 60,000 elementary students attained the national standard in core subjects. Tafnit has recently won a prestigious U.S. State Department award for educational initiatives. Our vision is to implement Tafnit in schools in the periphery in order to ensure equal opportunity, reduce socio-economic gaps and thereby maximize Israel’s
human capital.

Unistream: As Israel celebrates sixty years of independence, many in its peripheral communities still struggle to escape the cycle of hardship and despair. Until this reality is reversed, Israel will continue to be afflicted by severe income inequality.

Empowering youth in disadvantaged regions as future business leaders committed to their community can transform Israel’s future. That’s what Unistream is all about.

Educating Tomorrow’s Leaders Today, Unistream’s flagship program, is a three-year educational endeavor that utilizes the venue of business development to empower heterogeneous groups of outstanding Israeli youth, countrywide.

The program’s three pillars are: leadership development, acquiring business skills and community involvement. The essence of this process is put into practice as participants develop and operate their own business and social ventures.

Rony Zarom grew up in a financially challenged community; today he’s a leading hi-tech entrepreneur. In 2001, Mr. Zarom translated his vision to impact Israeli society into action he established Unistream. Funded by Mr. Zarom, municipalities, foundations, federations, businesses and friends, Unistream programs are run by professional staff and volunteer Unistream Friends Forum members.

Partnership is the magic word at Unistream. Partners include: 350 businesses whose founders, CEOs and VPs are members of the Unistream Friends Forum, 80 donors, 450 Unistream participants, alumni, staff and board members. Unistream’s excellence has won international acknowledgment by Schwab Foundation, Globes newspaper and the British Embassy in Israel. Unistream (NGO) has tax-exempt status in the U.S.A. and Israel.

Together we can make dreams of success come true in Israel’s periphery.