Dear Friends and Partners,
Injaz, Center for Professional Arab Local Governance in Israel, is pleased to share our latest newsletter.
Following the recent municipal elections in Israel, Injaz now stands at an important crossroads. In the municipal elections held in October 2013, there was turnover among 70% of the Arab mayors. Despite the challenge of building relations and carrying on projects with local leaders with whom we have not worked in the past, we see this situation as a rare opportunity. First of all, this is the first time in many years that virtually all Arab municipalities are led by elected mayors, (rather than those appointed by the Ministry of Interior due to severe lapses in proper management.) Second, the chance to help in training 53 new Arab local leaders in Israel – to enable them effectively to take on the work of advancing social and economic development in their towns in the coming five years (their term of office) is a critical task. Helping the vast majority of Arab mayors conceive of their job, and their relationship with the government, in a more pro-active and constructive light is a tremendous opportunity. It provides the chance to create sustainable positive change – that will work for the welfare of over 1 million Arab citizens of Israel.
Training Program for New Arab Mayors Launched
Given the vast mayoral turnover, Injaz Center, in cooperation with Tel Aviv University, initiated a focused training program for new mayors. The participating mayors will be trained and mentored by Tel Aviv University faculty, by successful veteran mayors and officials, as well as by experts in the field working with Injaz Center. Within the program’s framework, the new mayors will attend lectures and workshops facilitated by highly respected experts in various fields relating to management of local authorities.
The program aims to help the new mayors enter their positions smoothly, improve their professional accomplishments, manage their staff efficiently, and acquire the skills necessary to enable effective communication with key representatives of the central government. Most importantly, the program intends to impart the new mayors with the practical knowledge required to deal with the problems and urgent issues facing the Arab local authorities. The training program is taking place in cooperation with the Union of Local Authorities in Israel, the Prime Minister’s Office and in consultation with the Ministry of Interior.
The opening session was held on December 18th, 2013, in the presence of the Head of the Institute for Local Government, former Minister of Interior, Ophir Pines; Executive Director of the Injaz Center, Ghaida Renawi-Zoabi; Mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Ron Huldai; Deputy Minister of Interior, MK Faina Kirschenbaum. A panel of veteran Arab and Jewish mayors gave professional tips to the incoming mayors. Among the participants were Dr. Muhammad el-Nabari (Hura); Dov Tzur (Rishon LeZion); Simon Alfassi (Yokneam); and Sheikh Hashem Abed-El-Rahman, former Mayor of Umm el Fahm.
Injaz Center Continues Work with Senior Officials in the Arab Local Authorities
The Forum of Senior Municipal Officials continues its successful seminars, with enthusiastic feedback from the participants: 25 treasurers, general managers, and city engineers from 11 Arab towns, nation-wide. The forum was established in January 2013, with the understanding that, in order to create continuity during the election year, Injaz needs to empower a leading group of municipal professionals, as stable, nonelected leaders in the municipalities. The forum was designed to improve the senior officials’ confidence and trust in their working relations with government officials, and their capacity to access government resources and programs.
The fourth session of the Forum of Senior Officials in the Arab Local Authorities, dedicated to “Leadership and Town Development”, took place on September 12-13, 2013. Mr. Simon Alfassi, Mayor of Yokneam, shared the story of his city’s success in becoming a developed, well-maintained, and economically stable community. Mr. Alfassi presented his vision to the seminar participants, his operational methods within the municipality, his plans and aspirations, strategies and work dynamics. Members of the forum were inspired by Mr. Alfassi’s lecture, and learned practical tools regarding work strategies that contribute to creating a healthy organizational culture within the local authority.
Dr. Ronit Davidovitch, a specialist in community-based economic development, exposed forum members to a new viewpoint, emphasizing the connection between the development of the town and the development of the community. She encouraged participants to expand their horizons and adopt new, active and creative approaches—to think “out of the box”. Her lecture clarified the importance of utilizing the relative advantages of the town, and developing its unique qualities, as leverage towards growth and prosperity. An animated discussion took place following Dr. Davidovitch’s lecture, during which it was suggested that each participant initiate a meeting of colleagues in his authority on the topic of “Society and Community – Making a Difference,” which would constitute the beginning of an ongoing process of social-community development. Injaz Center will accompany the local authorities through this process and suggest professional intervention where necessary.
The seminar ended with a series of workshops. The first workshop, with Mr. Bashar Nakhash, was intended to facilitate personal interaction among members of the forum and to share aspects of their life experiences far from those of the workplace. The effects of the workshop were already obvious by the end of the seminar, as participants felt more comfortable with each other, and there was a feeling of closeness among them. In the second workshop, entitled “Leadership and Agents of Change” led by Dr. Elias Zeidan, participants were asked to define the desirable qualities and characteristics of a leader. This enabled participants to examine the difference between extant patterns of leadership within the local authorities and ideal, desirable leadership, with the objective that, in the future, they would be able to embody the criteria that they themselves had set.
Press Conference with the “Kudoman” Project Youth
A press conference with the participants in the “Kudoman” youth project took place at the Injaz Center offices on October 16, 2013. This event was the product of intensive work on the part of a group of young people, together with their facilitators and Injaz’s Communications and Media Coordinator, Ms. Noura Adawi. During the months leading up to the municipal elections, the young people played an active role in changing public discourse within their towns, and in getting issues relevant to them onto the agendas of the local authorities. Participants made use of social networks, which became platforms for active discussions, highlighted the needs and demands of the younger generation and expressed their opinions and perspectives regarding accepted patterns of voting and additional subjects related to the elections. The “Kudoman Youth” also strived to influence the agendas of the candidates through articles published in local newspapers and on various internet sites. representatives from each group, as well as Injaz’s Director, Ms. Ghaida Renawi Zoabi, the Kudoman Project Coordinator, Ms. Rula Barghouti Qussini, and Injaz’s Communications and Media Coordinator, Ms. Noura Adawi, all participated in the press conference, which gained wide media coverage – primarily in the Arabic press.
The press conference emphasized the importance of the relationship between the local authorities and their communities and the role of the younger generation in creating change, It highlighted the power of young people to take on responsible, organized community roles, given the massive human resource that they comprise, particularly in preparation for the local elections, in which their influence could lead to the greatest change. The press conference focused on the rationale and the concepts upon which Kudoman is built, as well as its objectives: to create a group of young people who will develop initiatives and projects to improve the situation of youth in their own towns; to create a basis for active, young leadership for whom stereotypes and preconceptions would not be relevant; and to influence decision-making within the local authorities in a tangible way.
Each youth group presented a short film or a poster that they had created, relating – sometimeswith humor – to a particularly worrisome issue with which they are dealing with in their towns. After the presentation, a winning film and poster were chosen, and the winning groups were awarded a monetary prize, to be invested in a project that the youth choose to advance in their towns.
Increasing Awareness to Environmental Sustainability
On October 3, 2013, Injaz Center and the Environmental Unit in Umm el Fahm hosted a study day on the topic of Environmental Sustainability at the Umm el Fahm Community Center. The day included a series of lectures presenting basic concepts in environmental sustainability, and closed with a tour of the city. The participants were primarily women active in Injaz’s project for women and municipal budget allocations, and women from various local organizations and NGOs.
Dr. Orli Ronen, Director of the Heschel Center for Sustainability, presented a lecture on “Managing Resources as a Driving Force for Local Development,” through which participants discovered the potential hidden in the environment, and understood that they were capable of developing their cities and significantly improving their conditions through proper management of environmental resources. Dr. Ronen was followed by Ms. Nahed Mahajni Seif, Director of the Environmental Unit in Umm el Fahm, who spoke about “the Importance of Environmental Education.” Her lecture presented examples of environmental development, providing participants with food for thought regarding the creation of similar projects within their own towns.
Understanding that the lectures and workshops would motivate participants to want to initiate and develop sustainable environmental projects within their towns, Mr. Mohamad Rabah, former Director of Umm el Fahm’s Environmental Unit, spoke about “Challenges of Sustainable Development.” He informed the participants about a variety of potential obstacles they might encounter when trying to implement a project in this field. The lecture was good preparation for planning projects, anticipating possible difficulties, and considering ways to deal with them from the outset.
Other speakers included Ms. Rania Akel and Ms. Nadia Sakran. Ms. Akel spoke about “the Green Town,” and presented examples of cultivated green environments, while emphasizing its importance, its connection to development, and its great benefits for coming generations. Ms. Sakran shared a presentation describing her experience making home-made fertilizer, while connecting it directly with the preserving traditions and practices of our forefathers, who were environmentally friendly.
The seminar closed with an environmental tour of Umm el Fahm including. the “Montazah Al-Nafoura,” in the past an abandoned site, which today is the most popular and active park in Umm el Fahm; and the rehabilitated Al-Moallaka fresh-water Spring and surrounding park. Mr. Rabah described the process of creating the parks and developing the areas, from the initial concept through completion. Both sites allow residents to connect to their roots and participate in an ancient tradition, while enjoying much-needed open space. He also noted the emotional value of the spring to the city’s older generation, for whom springs were once the only source of water. The study day was arranged by the coordinator of Injaz’s Environmental and Gender Mainstreaming programs, Ms. Haya Sarsour Zoabi.
From the News
Injaz’s Election Analysis in “The Marker”
On November 28, 2013, “The Marker” published an article about Injaz’s analysis of the municipal election results in Arab towns. The article highlighted key developments and disappointments. On the one hand, voter turnout reached almost 90%. A large number of women and young people were involved in the run-up to the elections. The youth were very active in generating public debate and discussion about issues and candidates’ platforms in the period preceding the elections, using social networking as an important tool. There were also a record number of female candidates running for city council. Despite the considerable pre-election activity, however, in the end, voting was dominated by clan considerations rather than candidates’ platforms or performance.
“The Catch-22 of Arab Local Authorities”
An op-ed by Ghaida Rinawie-Zoabi addresses the implications of the unusually high turnover in the recent municipal elections in her article entitled “The Catch-22 of Arab Local Authorities”, published in the internet issue of “The Marker” (December 31, 2013). The high percentage of new and inexperienced mayors coming into office in Arab and Druze municipalities is a trend that perpetuates a vicious cycle of instability, loss of the residents’ confidence in their leaders, and a high turnover each subsequent election. As Rinawie-Zoabi writes: “Arab mayors are elected to run their communities, but do not receive the appropriate tools to do so. Thus arises the Catch-22 for mayors in Arab society, causing an overly high election turnover and further destabilizing the standing of the authorities.” This problem is compounded by the already existing difficulties facing Arab communities, such as low locally generated income, high percentages of unemployment (particularly among women), planning and development problems, insufficient allocation of government budgets, lack of direct contact with national decision makers, and the influence of family/clan regimes.
Rinawie-Zoabi maintains, however, that these problems are not insurmountable. She suggests that the solution lies not merely in the readiness of the central government to invest more in Arab communities, but also, and perhaps most importantly, in the Arab society taking greater responsibility over its own fate. This can be accomplished by building up professionalism in local governments, providing local leadership with the skills to manage their communities more effectively, and encouraging an attitude of cooperation between new and veteran mayors. With this aim in mind, the Institute for Local Government at Tel Aviv University in collaboration with Injaz Center launched the training program for new mayors in December 2013.