Reuven Rivlin commemorates the late Shimon Peres in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: PRESIDENT'S RESIDENCY SPOKESPERSON)
Disturbed by Israel’s growing abandonment of the principles and values of democracy, 24 organizations have formulated a covenant for national discourse. Prior to formulating the text for the covenant, grassroots discussions were held with citizens across the country to reach a consensus on civil behavior.
The covenant was presented to President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday by representatives of the 24 organizations.
The discourse partnership grew out of a protest demonstration last year against Rivlin
who many on the right regard as having deserted them, and say he has become a leftist. The protest was so vile that Polly Bronstein, executive director of Darkenu, organized a counter demonstration opposite the President’s Residence in support of Rivlin. As luck would have it, the demonstrators were drenched by rain. They called on Rivlin to talk to them. But just as he had refrained from going out to reason with those who demonstrated against him, he decided not to go out to those supporting him. Instead, he invited them to come inside, and they dripped rainwater all over the carpet.
Their talk with Rivlin inspired them to encourage other Israelis to learn more about each other, and to listen to each other.
The upshot was the covenant, which was presented to Rivlin by venture capitalist and Medinol founder Kobi Richter, Bronstein, and Efrat mayor and Yesha foreign liaison Oded Revivi.
The document, which will also be presented to the 120 members of Knesset, seeks to bring about change in the national discourse. It calls on Israel’s leaders to demonstrate transparency and greater sincerity of purpose, and encourages dialogue free of divisiveness, hatred and incitement, including the banning of publications that are violent or racist in character.
Leaders are also urged to work against the delegitimization of other human beings on the basis of opinion, skin color, religion, nationality or sexual orientation.
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Taking into account the time of year, Revivi spoke of the significance of the sounds of the shofar to Jews and the horn from which it is made to the animal from which it is taken. Then moving on to democracy, he said that one of the foundations of democracy is freedom of expression, but in a digital era freedom of expression is breeding hatred and pain.
“The covenant teaches us to listen,” he said. “One speaks and the other listens.” The instruction to listen came from Moses at Mount Sinai he noted, and when the Children of Israel received the tablets with the Ten Commandments they said “Na’aseh v’nishma – (We will do and we will listen).
Rivlin pointed out that this phenomenon happened only at Sinai, and since then, the idea has been to listen first and then to decide whether to act on what one has heard.
The big problem in Israel, he said, is that people don’t listen to one another, and are reluctant to dialogue, a factor that weakens the social fabric.
The signatories of the Declaration of Independence came from vastly different backgrounds but all shared a belief in democracy, Zionism and a Jewish state, he said.
In emphasizing the need to listen, Richter said to Rivlin that man was given two ears and one mouth, to which Rivlin replied, “Yes, but the mouth has many teeth.”
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