It is often said that you shouldn’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.
On Thursday, hundreds of Israelis from all sectors of society will not just figuratively walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, but will actually exchange positions and lives for a full day.
The exchange will occur in the framework of “Switch Day,” an annual initiative of the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation and the Rothschild Partnerships, taking place for its second year.
Whether Jews or Arabs, religious or secular, managers or students, Israelis in similar positions but from different “tribes” – as often described by President Reuven Rivlin – will all exchange positions to better understand other parts of Israeli society.
“Last year we initiated Switch Day which was a huge sociocultural success, attended by hundreds of participants including heads of academic institutions, directors of social organizations, educators and artists,” said Barak Dror Wanderman, chairman of the Rothschild Partnerships Administrative Board.
“Rothschild Partnerships is active throughout the year promoting equal opportunities and to build a joint society,” he said. “We invite the general public to take part this year in the Switch Day project and to increase its impact for a more equal and friendly Israel.”
Among those swapping places as part of the initiative this year will be Sliman Alamour, deputy director of AJEEC-NISPED, a Beersheba-based nonprofit promoting social change and Arab-Jewish partnership, particularly among the Bedouin community.
Alamour, who has worked at AJEEC for a decade, will swap places with Shira Ohana, director of Rothschild Foundation’s Kav Hazinuk youth leadership program.
“Getting to know a new ‘tribe,’ new people and new organizations is part of my belief system, both professionally and personally, and it is always the basis for future collaborations,” Alamour told The Jerusalem Post. “It is important for me to deepen the acquaintance between the tribes from a place of strength and strategic thinking. Such acquaintance can help promote and build partnerships between all tribes and cultures.”
In addition to becoming acquainted with others through the framework program, Alamour also expressed his hope that the lessons learned during the experience will have significantly further reach.
“There is a deep lack of familiarity between all societies and tribes in Israeli society,” Alamour said. “There is a lack of mutual appreciation for the cultural assets of each tribe. Such an initiative can have a positive impact on social action, and our responsibility is to continue the spirit of the initiative into daily life.”
Like Alamour, 30-year-old Tel Aviv resident Ohana is also responsible for improving the social mobility of young Israelis, particularly from the geographical and social periphery.
“Separate education systems, whether religious, secular, ultra-Orthodox or Arab, create fear, alienation and ignorance,” Ohana told the Post. “The value of Switch Day is the ability to broaden my perspective, both personally in terms of the people that I meet, and politically by understanding how Sliman’s society works and the challenges that it faces.”
Ohana said she hopes the experience will enable Kav Hazinuk to increase the rate of participation by Bedouin youth. The leadership program currently assists 550 participants aged 15 to 25.
“The more that opinion leaders, directors of frameworks and senior figures in Israeli society succeed in creating a space for meetings between different tribes – which doesn’t happen every day in the education sector – ignorance and fear will diminish,” said Ohana. “Then we will be able to realize the inherent potential in the cultural richness of Israeli society.”