(photo credit: REUTERS)
President Reuven Rivlin has called for greater inclusion of Arabs and Haredim in public service positions. Speaking at his official residence on Wednesday at a ceremony marking the intake of the first group of students of the Wexner Foundation’s Senior Leadership program for public servants, Rivlin noted that more than a quarter of the children in elementary schools in Israel are either Haredi or Arab. However this ratio is not reflected in the distribution of public service jobs in the adult community, he said.
Rivlin urged the powers that be to wake up to changing realities and to make room for the inclusion and integration of Arabs and Haredim in public service and all sectors of the work force.
Rivlin was particularly conscious of the Arab sector because he is scheduled to meet today Thursday, with leaders of Arab municipalities to discuss issues of integration and developmental initiatives.
Rivlin said that over the years there had been amendments to the law to facilitate the integration of the two sectors particularly during the period of the first of the Sharon-led administrations, but the reality has fallen far short of the target, he said.
This could lead to a dangerous situation he warned, because the so-called minorities are gradually becoming majorities, and as such they demand and deserve equality and the right to participate in the planning of the destiny and the image of the state.
It would seem, said Rivlin, that enacting laws is inadequate. What is required is a reformation of basic social norms.
The Wexner Israel Fellowship Program established in 1989 represents a unique partnership between the Wexner Foundation, the Israel Civil Service Commission and the Harvard Kennedy School.
Up until recently the Wexner Foundation provided the funding each year for ten outstanding Israeli public servants to pursue a Master's Degree in Public Administration at the Kennedy School and to participate in a set of leadership institutes sponsored by the Foundation itself.
Following the success of this program, the Wexner Foundation which is a broad-based philanthropic enterprise established by Leslie and Abigail Wexner of Albany, Ohio, expanded its commitment to excellence in Israel’s public service sector and launched the Wexner Senior Leadership Program to help strengthen Israel’s public service leadership.
Though not mentioned directly, Wednesday’s ceremony was held in the shadow of a series of corruption charges and allegations involving public servants in government, in the legislature, in local municipalities, in law enforcement, in the Israel Defense Forces, the rabbinate and the judiciary.
It was very clear from the emphasis that Rivlin and other speakers placed on the need for the public to have confidence in its public servants and the need for public servants to provide the services required in a properly functioning society, that the many recent revelations of corruption were on everyone’s minds.
Rivlin told the present and future public servants in the audience that he was certain that each of them had come to their professions with a sense of mission.
This concept was reinforced by General (Res) Ido Nehushtan, the former Commander in Chief of the Israel Air Force who currently chairs the Wexler Foundation’s Israel Advisory Committee. All the people in the room he said, were capable of being high achievers in the private sector, but they opted instead to serve in the public sector and thus make a contribution to the state.
A strong public service is more vital today than ever before, he said.
Civil Service Commissioner Moshe Dayan said that the Wexner Foundation has done something which is very un-Israeli. It has foreseen the coming of change and has adapted accordingly.
Dr. Masad Barhoum, Director of the Galilee Medical Center Nahariya said that his father had taught him that excellence means doing the best you can. Barhoum, who has an impressive CV, said that he was at a double disadvantage, because as an Israeli Christian Arab he was a minority within a minority. Nonetheless, taking note of his father’s advice, he persevered, and is now the director of an excellent medical center that serves a population of 600,000 Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze and Circassians all of who are represented on the medical staff. Every patient is regarded as a human being in need, he said.
Wexner Foundation President Rabbi B. Elka Abrahamson said that it is a great honor for the Wexner Foundation to be able to invest in Israel’s most important resource – its citizens, for whom it aims to produce top quality leaders. Over the years 250 Israeli leaders in diverse areas of public service have graduated from Wexner Foundation programs.