CENTER The 20th annual Ruj Sharkie – Festival of Contemporary Arab Culture is scheduled to take place during the first week of June at the Jaffa Theater.The program includes an opening concert followed by an array of films, lectures, poetry readings and dance performances. It will run from June 1 to 5 at the theater, which describes itself as a stage for Arab-Hebrew culture.Apart from the opening day, each evening of the festival is dedicated to a particular culture, such as Palestinian, Iraqi, Lebanese and Egyptian.During the festival of the festival, a fair of Palestinian art and literature will be presented at the Theater Square daily from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. In addition, traditional dishes from various countries highlighted in the festival will be available.Admission to the opening performance is free.While the price of a single ticket is NIS 25, and an entire evening ticket costs NIS 50. First transgender national service program launched A pioneer program for transgender youth volunteering in Israel’s civilian national service alternative to military conscription was recently launched in the center of the country.So far, some 15 youth in the Trans Wave (Breaker) initiative, operated by the Shlomit: National Service Placement Organization, are integrating into community volunteer work.The participants are housed in two apartments in the center, although further details regarding their location remain undisclosed to ensure their safety. Along with providing shelter, the program gives participants full psychological, medical and hormonal support, which is needed by those who are transitioning.According to Tali Wasserman, the coordinator for the program, the initiative was needed because the army is based entirely on gender division and is not familiar with the special needs of transgender people, particularly young ones who lack family support.Guidance and support are also provided to members of the program by the NGO Elem/Youth in Distress in Israel, as some of the youth are estranged from their families in light of their gender and sexual identifications.As there are plans to expand the program, some of its members are trained to volunteer within the LGBT community in coordination with the Israel Gay Youth organization. Birthright takes over during Tel Aviv WeekThousands of Taglit-Birthright participants flocked to Tel Aviv this week as part of a new initiative that gives an up-close and personal insight into the vibrant coastal city.Some 5,000 Birthright participants between the ages of 18 and 26 met leading figures, took part in workshops, walked through landmarks and learned about history and contemporary culture as part of the Tel Aviv Week program running from May 23 to 25.“As part of a new tradition, we are excited to launch the Birthright Israel week that will take place annually and introduces participants to modern Tel Aviv, from hi-tech and innovation to the exciting music, arts, fashion and culinary scenes this city has to offer,” said Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark.NORTH Migdal Ha’emek gala raising funds for disadvantaged kidsThe annual Fulfill a Child’s Dream charity gala will take place at the end of May and the beginning of June in the northern city of Migdal Ha’emek.The seven-year-old program aims to raise funds for children from disadvantaged families in the city. All proceeds from the initiative go toward integrating the children into extracurricular activities and programs.Two central events are will take place on May 31 at the city community center’s Tzavta theater, and Ehud Banai is due to headline a musical performance on June 2 at the city’s Community Center Theater.Thousands of shekels have been raised for the project over the past years, and last year some 130 children received scholarships made possible by contributions to the initiative.“Migdal Ha’emek is known for its communities of mutual responsibility for its residents. I call on residents and community leaders to open their hearts and their wallets for Fulfill a Child’s Dream and give an equal opportunity to dozens of children to be enriched in classes and activities,” said Orit Ze’evi-Cohen, the city’s community center manager.SOUTH BGU hosting robotics symposium Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is scheduled to host an interdisciplinary conference on robotics in Beersheba from May 29 to June 1.An array of leading experts, scientists and researchers along with students will attend the symposium called “Sensing: From Minds to Machines.”“Our goal is to bring together researchers from various scientific disciplines who work on different forms of sensation (hearing, touch, vision) and employ different methodologies (neuroscience, behavior, computation) in order to explore new research directions for sensing and sensory processing,” the university said of the program.Researchers and students will present their own research in two poster sessions at the conference.