Friday, August 2, 2013

Haifa Community Week: Current Issues Day

Haifa Community Week: Current Issues Day July 28th by Steven Conti The theme of Sunday was Social issues in Israel. The day started off with thirty minutes of discussing hypothetical situations in small groups. Within the groups each fellow represented a different people such as orthodox jews, secular jews, and gay people. Each person was forced to argue from that perspective, which for many forced them a little outside their comfort zone. This allowed them to try and understand the other perspectives. After finishing this activity there was an LGBTQ panel with a lesbian, a bisexual woman, and a gay man from Haifa. We were split into 3 groups and to start, each group sat with one of the panel members. They each told their story to the group and about the hardships that went with it. In my group we were told that the girl lost her best friends when she told them about her sexuality, and she is still scared to tell her grandfather because she feels he will not accept her. The group was then given the opportunity to ask questions in an effort to gain knowledge about the hardships of being gay in the current day society. We learned that she is comfortable with her sexuality and open about it, but has been in situations where she has felt uncomfortable with he way she was treated. After the question session the entire group came back together and listened to a poem about how uncomfortable it is to be stuck in the closet with people, but how the decision to step outside is a difficult one to make. The group then discussed their thoughts about the poem, and one fellow brought up an interesting point. For many it is comfortable the be in the closet, and it is the outside world that is uncomfortable. After further discussion we moved on and watched a movie about a straight girl in a gay world. It was similar to current day society, but it was considered wrong to be straight, and all of the derogatory words were switched to derogatory words for being straight. It was a very moving and emotional movie as it showed the extremes of actions taken against gays in our society, such as being beaten, but was easier to connect to because the outcast is a straight girl which for us is considered "normal". After about a half-hour of debriefing and speaking about people's reactions we learned that many of the fellows had stronger or changed opinions about gay rights, which concluded our section dedicated to LGBTQ and gay rights. We then went and met with the public relations representative of the Haifa Municipality named Eido Minkovski who talked to us about the impact of young people on society and how they can bring in more diversity, which is Haifa's goal because many young people had been moving to Tel-Aviv for new opportunities. We learned how young people create growth, but will move to societies with more options for work. He then explained Haifa's methods of attracting these kinds of people who they have losing in the past few years. We moved on from speaking with him and moved on to Haifa University to speak with one of Liana's previous professors about Israeli politics. He gave short lectures on Israeli youth, politics, and social issues. He provided us with a realistic perspective on internal and external struggles of Israel and how they connect and form the future of the country. Many of the Fellows were blown away by his explanation of politics, including when he gave us a really comprehensive update of the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To end the day we had a calm Maagal where everyone did a compliment line by lighting the candle of the person we complimented, and then passing the flame. Finally we spelled out Diller with the candles and sang Hashkeveinu to end the day.

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