Native-born Israelis and immigrants bond through new TLV initiative

‘Mind The Gap’ uses social events to break down barriers.

Shira shitrit, Natalie Amit, Perach Koko and Jonathan Ben Lulu at Mendalimos for a Mind the Gap event. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Shira shitrit, Natalie Amit, Perach Koko and Jonathan Ben Lulu at Mendalimos for a Mind the Gap event.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Many new immigrants to Israel find themselves living in social “bubbles.” They make friends in Hebrew classes and at non-Hebrew speaking jobs while trying to get their command of the local language up to par, and thus struggle to forge lasting connections with Israelis.
A new event-based initiative called “Mind The Gap” seeks to change that, organizing social events to bring together tzabarim, native Israelis, and olim, immigrants.
Mind the Gap is the brainchild of 31-year-old Israeli banker Natalie Amit, who hosted her second event on Monday night at Tel Aviv’s Mandalimos bar.
“I have many olim friends who do not engage in their daily life socially with Israelis. Therefore, I’m trying to create a platform that is fun and can meet that goal,” Amit told The Jerusalem Post. Amit became familiar with the young adult olim she seeks to attract to her events, as well as internationally-oriented Israelis, when she was a volunteer for a Jewish Agency project called ConecTLV. 
Monday’s event, coming just a few days after the Jewish New Year, was Rosh Hashana-themed, with apples and honey on the bar, holiday-themed decorations and a game of Bingo that began with an icebreaker about New Year’s resolutions. The idea of the game was to pair Israelis with olim, however, the olim-heavy attendance meant this was not possible for all teams.
“The ratio was way off, so it didn’t quite work and most olim paired up with other olim,” US immigrant Chaim Goldstein told the Post. “I only spoke with one Israeli that evening very briefly. Yet I spoke with so many olim that it felt no different than any other English-speaking social event.”
The uneven ratio was a comment heard from several of the new immigrants, but Amit intends to work on this. “More Israelis would love to meet olim,” Amit asserted, saying she was making an effort on that front and expects the numbers to even out with time. “It’s something different and new for them. And I would love to share with Israelis this experience of meeting people from different cultures,” she said.
Jimmy Grossmann, a 37-year-old immigrant from Belgium, had a largely positive experience at the event, calling it a “good format to mingle.”
“We usually each stay in our respective corners. It’s nice to try to get us to cross the boundaries,” he said, adding that he was looking forward to the next event.
“I’ve only been in Israel for one year and I don’t have that many Israeli friends. So I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet some Israelis, but also to meet new people in general. Because when you move somewhere alone you need to make a new circle of friends,” British newcomer Louise Melzack, 32, said. She noted, however, that the loud music played immediately after the short game of Bingo was not conducive to that end.
“I thought they had a good idea and it was a nice idea to break the divide between olim and Israelis. It definitely has promise,” added fellow Brit Rebecca Fisher, 32. “The organizers did a good job of bringing in their Israeli friends and I suspect the challenge is getting Israelis to come to these events.”
David, 29, a native Israeli who studies at Bar Ilan University, said in the past year he has been meeting more olim through his studies and is keen to meet more. “I’m interested in hearing their stories, about their aliya and their experiences of Israel,” he said.
Similarly, Vladi Zacharov, 26, who moved to Israel from Ukraine when he was a baby, sought to meet people from various backgrounds.
An Israeli attendee who wished to remain anonymous saw the initiative as a good tool to try to help olim integrate into the country.
“Why don’t olim stay in Israel?” he asked. “It’s because of either economic or social reasons. So I guess Natalie is trying to solve the second problem.”
He also noted that there are many communities in Tel Aviv where people from different backgrounds tend not to mix socially, spending time with others who are similar to themselves. Mind the Gap is an attempt to bring at least two of those communities together.