Speaking at the opening of the Herzliya Conference, a major policy gathering, Israel’s president urged greater integration of all sectors of Israeli society, especially the Arab and ultra-Orthodox communities.
President Reuven Rivlin built on the address he gave last year at the same forum, in which he warned that Israeli society is becoming increasingly polarised into four tribes – Secular Jewish, Orthodox Jewish, ultra-Orthodox Jewish and Arab sectors. Yesterday, he proposed boosting four “engines of change,” which Rivlin believes could foster greater integration for the benefit of all. Explaining the concept, he said: “When the quality of life of my neighbours is higher, the personal security of my community is higher. The need for cooperation rises, the more that mutual dependence is higher.”
Outlining two potential catalysts for change, Rivlin said: “If in past the army was Israeli society’s main meeting space, academia and the labour market have become the number one place in which Israeli society meets itself.”
He added: “Academia and the labour market are the gateway to fulfilling the Israeli dream,” where “there is shaped a feeling of belonging and social standing. There, the ideological richness in human diversity is not a threat but rather a competitive advantage”.
Another important area, said Rivlin, is “public and civil service—particularly in government offices,” which have “the power to ensure essential equality between the citizens of Israel, from all the sectors, and to strengthen their faith in the state’s institutions”. Additionally, Rivlin highlighted the importance of the education system in bringing about societal change.
Emphasising the broad tent which Rivlin envisages for Israeli society, he asked rhetorically, “Do I expect or demand that all Israeli citizens be Zionists? No.” He said that Israeli reality must also adapt to the sensibilities of Arab citizens. Underscoring the point, he said: “Not all Jews sing Hativka [the national anthem]. Not all Jews are Zionists. Do they not have the right to be Israelis?”