An Innovative community network model for mixed secular and religious communities
Until 30 years ago the religious and secular populations lived together sharing common experiences in the playground, local stores and communal affairs. That situation changed dramatically as segregated building projects and neighborhoods emerged thus undermining a natural commonality and fostering a sense of distance from one another. There is a new welcoming change in the environment with Gesher taking a lead role. Today, 2,000 Israeli families have chosen to live in a mixed secular-religious community as a way of life. These communities have turned to Gesher for assistance. Gesher's approach to mixed community development is to take our successful 'Encounters' model and apply it beyond individuals and into communities.
Gesher’s mixed community model project was in Mazkeret Batya in central Israel, which in the past few years has become an effective and harmonious model of secular and religious communal life. Based on this model, Gesher is currently assisting 20 communities deal with the challenges of learning to live together while each family keeps their unique lifestyle. Our professional staff will also be providing new communities with the practical advice and programming to set up mixed communities of their own. We regard mixed communities as imperative to combat the disturbing trend in Israel, in which secular and religious populations are seeking to avoid any form of integration and choosing to live separately.
To help bridge the differences, we invest in special events that create understanding and appreciation for one another's interests. This month we held a community-wide festival including field trips, an art exhibition, food booths, study sessions and a handicraft workshop. Over 800 people attended this festive event, which brought together participants from a wide range of different sectors. Musical entertainment was provided by a local band along as well as a toe-tapping finale performance by popular Israeli artist Eviatar Banai.
These mixed communities are sending out a new message of the possibility of religious and secular Israelis living together and sharing Jewish experiences despite different life styles.