With its remarkably complex social and ethnic mosaic, Israel faces a series of challenges but also opportunities to improve the quality of life for its residents and increase their participation in local community life, according to the organizers of a conference scheduled for next week in Jerusalem.

Titled “Living in a Mixed City – Challenges, Problems, and Solutions” the conference set for November 13 to 16 at the Jerusalem YMCA will study mixed cities “with the goal of examining new ways to improve the quality of life for the different populations who share the city. Furthermore, the conference will ask whether decision-making mechanisms on the local level can challenge the state and its institutions to invest in its citizens, residents, migrant workers, and other residents,” according to organizers.

While in Israel, the term “mixed-city” typically refers to cities where large populations of Jews and Arabs live side-to-side, the conference will also focus on examples such as Tel Aviv where native residents live with a growing population of migrants and foreign workers, and Jerusalem, with its ongoing tension between secular and religious residents.

According to the conference schedule, panels will discuss how to involve city residents in decision making, “thoughtful planning in mixed cities,” language issues, education, gender issues, secular and religious conflicts, and conflict resolution in mixed cities, among others.

Dr. Uki Maroshek-Klarman, academic director of The Adam Institute for Democracy and Peace, said Thursday that the issues to be covered at the conference are of serious importance to Israel, because of the high number of cities and towns in the country that have a very wide variety of communities living within them.

Maroshek-Klarman added that while mixed cities often are characterized by social problems and conflict between communities, they also often present local solutions to such problems that could potentially be applied on a national level.

“Day to day life in mixed cities creates solutions for problems that don’t receive such solutions on the national level. These cities are not only failures, they also create solutions we can learn from.” She added that the conference will also bring in speakers and other participants from “post-conflict” cities such as Belfast, northern Ireland and Belgrade, Serbia, where they will discuss what happens to such cities after national and ethnic conflicts are resolved.

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