Public Security Minister Avi Dichter defended the millions of dollars of funding that the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) has put toward the government's City of Non-Violence program, during Wednesday's conference in Eilat.
The program, founded in 2004, aims to harness government, police, social services and educational resources to significantly stem violence within Israeli society, and has been heavily subsidized by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein's IFCJ.
Asked why the government was unable to provide funding to promote its own anti-violence campaign, Dichter said, "Unfortunately the state is large and our budget is small. Three government ministries have received [budgetary] priority - the ministries of Defense, Education and Social Welfare... [so] we must not pass up this opportunity."
Dichter went on to call for spreading the anti-violence initiative "to 60 other Israeli cities towns and villages," saying, "I want to see a state of non-violence."
The IFCJ has provided Israel with over NIS 1 billion worth of aid in the past eight years, announced Deborah Ganani, CEO of the fund in Israel, during a press conference that kicked off the gathering.
"We are proud to be associated with the Ministry of Public Security. We have earmarked a further $2 million towards the City of Non-Violence program," she said.
"This money is unconditional. It comes from Christians who love Israel," Ganani added.
During his speech, Dichter called on Israeli-Arab municipalities and councils to join the program, saying that "violence in the Arab sector is more severe than in other areas."
Dichter's call was backed by the mayor of the Beduin town of Rahat, Talal al-Karnawi.
"We in the Arab sector can also deal with violence. Thanks to this program, and to Rabbi Eckstein, we are being given the resources to do so. We're [headed] in the right direction," he said.
Ahmad Takruri, the welfare department manager in Kalansuwa, said violence among Israeli-Arab youths toward teachers and adults was a new phenomenon.
"We would like to spread an anti-violence message in schools, to start with the youth. We need to talk about this," he added.
Takruri said he hoped Kalansuwa would join City of Non-Violence soon.
"I remember 20 years ago, we respected teachers. Today, some youths have lost that understanding," he said.
As the conference focused on tackling a broad range of violent attacks, Dr. Avi Bitzur of the Pensioner Affairs Office reported that 26,000 incidents of violence against senior citizens had been recorded in 2007.
In addition, the summer of 2007 was described as "the most violent summer since the founding of the state" by Orli Yehezkeal, head of the Galilee and Negev Development Office. She added that the state's failure to deal with the problem was mainly responsible for the surge in violence.