Statewide Seminar for Student Activists

Statewide Seminar for Student Activists, Dimona, May 30-31 2008
“The seminar was amazing, successful and very challenging for the future. I believe that after this seminar we will go on to real action as an engaged group.” (Abir, Oranim College and Mahapach-Taghir).
“I want to say that the seminar was a very significant experience for me, a stepping stone in my intellectual and social development.” (Hila, Social Theatre Program, University of Haifa).
The Partnership for Social Change and Mahapach-Taghir's annual statewide seminar was held in May 30-31, 2008. This was the third statewide seminar, which is the Partnership's central student seminar, and aimed to bring together students engaged for social change through different organizations and programs across the country, in order to enrich their political and social knowledge, contribute to their social engagement, encourage a shared discourse, and promote co-operations among organizations. As part of the seminar's social and political agenda, it was decided to hold the seminar in Dimona, a peripheral, development town in the Negev.
For a short film from the seminarpress here.
For a short presentation about the seminarpress here.
Preparation stages
The seminar was preceded by a preparation process that lasted approximately six months. This process included the formation of a steering committee, which was composed of students and representatives of social change organizations. Members of the steering committee shaped the framework of the seminar, chose the topics and issues to be discussed out of the numerous workshops proposed by students and organizations, took decisions when faced with dilemmas that arouse throughout the preparation stages, and took upon themselves central roles during the seminar. Members of the steering committee were continually in contact with (larger) student groups from the organizations they represented, in different areas, and consulted the students before making decisions in the steering committee.
The number of participants in the seminar this year was greater than in the previous years – 190 students, from 26 universities and colleges across the country, and active in some 90 organizations and programs for social change, participated in the seminar.
List of organizations: Green Course, Mahapach-Taghir, Rape Crisis Centers, SHATIL, Peers Learning, Social Involvement Unit at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Bat Shalom, Meretz, Israeli Center for Social Justice, Community Advocacy, the Social Economic College, Hevra Tova, Student Council, HU-NGO Connection, Tools for Change Program – series of encounters on social activism, Latet – Israeli Humanitarian Aid, Amcha, Legal Clinics at the Hebrew University, Ta'ayush, JDC – Israel, the Program of Education for Social Justice, Environmental Change and Peace Education – Kibbutzim College of Education, the Hothouse for Educational Entrepreneurship -  Kibbutzim College of Education, Alon, Perach (National Tutorial Project), Ossim Shalom, Neve Ya'acov Youth Community, Forum for the Study of a Different Economy, New Horizon, Israel Women's Network, Student Union at the Hebrew University, Student Union at Ben-Gurion University, Student Union at the Technion, organization for refugees from Darfur, Human Rights, Community and Planning Policy course at Ben-Gurion University, Ahava Youth Boarding School, Social Theatre Program at University of Haifa, Enosh – Israeli Mental Health Association, the Initiating Committee of Arab Students at Ben-Gurion University, Student Union at University of Haifa, Baladna – Association for Arab Youth, Mossawa center, Adalah – Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, AJEEC – Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation, Musrara Youth Community, Community Learning Center, Family Program, New Spirit, New Profile, Ayalim Association, Shema – Association for Education and Rehabilitation of Hearing Impaired Children and Youth, Stand With Us, Brera Center, Anonymous for Animal Rights, Green Course, Greenpeace, Education with a View Towards the Community program – Tel-Hai College, ALUT – Israeli Society for Autistic Children, Green Action, Tafnit, Issawiya Community Center, Solidarity – Social Left on Campus, Student Coalition at Tel-Aviv University, Wellspring for Democratic Education, Minerva Human Rights Fellows, Lafer Center for Women and Gender Studies, Aswat, Tzeva – Youth Building Future, Kol Kore, Kvutzot HaBhira, Al-Inayah al-Ahaliya, ELI – Israeli Association for Child Protection, Gilo Center for Citizenship, Democracy and Civic Education, Hamoked – Center for the Defense of the Individual, Yesh Gvul, Art and Activism course – Bezalel, Amitim in the Community, the Movement for Global Awakening, SCHUG – Environment, Society and Us, Salon Mazal, Alternative Youth Summer Camp, Kav La'Oved, Women's Coalition for Peace, Commitment to Peace and Social Justice, Heschel Center, Community Translating course – Bar-Ilan University, Tz'ar Ba'aley Haim, Isha L'Isha – Haifa Feminist Center, Alliance, the Open House, Nadav – Youth Leadership.
Framework and contents
The seminar commenced on Friday morning with short words of introduction and greeting by Dr. Daphna Golan, Director of the Academy-Community Partnership for Social Change, and Khuloud Aderis, Co-Director of Mahapach-Taghir. The opening words were followed by a review of the seminar program and framework. Following the opening, students dispersed to the numerous workshops which took place through Saturday afternoon. In total, 56 workshops and 2 study tours were held throughout 7 time units. During every time unit students could choose between 8 to 10 activities. Workshops addressed a variety of issues, including: education, Israeli society, tools for social change, environment, philosophy of social change, gender, and social-economic issues. In addition, two study-tours took place. The first study tour was to the unrecognized villages in the Negev, guided by the Forum for Co-Existence in the Negev, and the second study tour was of Bir al-Saba, guided by Zochrot. A special emphasis was placed upon workshops that addressed social issues relevant to the South – wishing to encourage the study of issues related to the seminar's geographical location, while addressing social issues relevant to the periphery.
            About half of the workshops throughout the seminar were facilitated by students, brining to the workshops the experience which they have accumulated throughout their social engagement. These workshops afford to the students an important setting in which they may gain experience in instruction and facilitation of peer learning, and a setting to expand personal ties. The other half of the workshops was facilitated by representatives of social change organizations, and by faculty members of academic institutions. This unique integration of facilitation by students, faculty members and representatives of organizations, contributed to advancing the Partnership's agenda of mutual commitment between institutions of higher education, students and the community. As in each and every year, the Jewish-Palestinian partnership was evident, represented by the issues addressed in the workshops, increased participation of Palestinian organizations in the seminar, and the equal and respected status dedicated to the Arabic language (in all written material of the seminar, and in the implementation of workshops in Arabic).
            In the social evening, students enjoyed several social activities, including movement, music and dancing. Throughout the seminar, a calm and pleasant atmosphere prevailed. Students expressed their enthusiasm regarding the activities and workshops. Discussions continued into the breaks, and there was a general feeling of success in all aspects. 
For the complete seminar programpress here.
Summary of the seminar
At the end of the seminar students were invited to propose concluding sessions – to think together of continuation activities, according to their areas of interest.
            One group contended with the establishment of a new student group at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – a group of Bat Shalom (women's peace organization). Students from the Hebrew University were invited to participate and discuss possible activities on campus in the coming year.
            A second group, intended for students interesting in environmental action, discussed issues related to environmental activities in Israel, difficulties in advancing action, and possible solutions. The main issue raised at the meeting was the advancement of environmental issues in the Palestinian society in Israel. It was decided to focus upon the area of transportation, and act jointly to advance public transportation in Arab towns in Israel. The issue was suggested in parallel to the advancement of an environmental agenda – as it addresses an acute need in the Palestinian society, and combines an example of characteristic discrimination between Arabs and Jews in Israel. In this way it is possible to link environmental issues with inequality issues, and connect the Palestinian society to environmental questions and a genuine need in the community.
            The third group introduced a preliminary idea regarding an internet project which would enable to create social networks of activists for social change. The student who initiated the idea presented the project, the vision and possible ways of implementation. This was followed by a joint thinking process regarding the idea, and contacts were formed with the aim of promoting its realization.
            In the fourth group students worked to formulate a press release about the seminar. Their goal was to write a statement, a call from the participants of the seminar, to all students to act for social change. After formulating the message, the students prepared a large sheet on which they wrote in Hebrew and in Arabic – "Students call for social change". Participants in the seminar were invited to write upon the sign social messages, sign their name, and add a stamping of their hands. Participants were photographed with the sign, and this photograph was sent together with the press release statement to the local and national media. This action lead to the publication of the seminar in two websites:

Yoram (education website) – 
press here.
Volunteering in Israel – 
press here

            The fifth concluding session group discussed the issue of cooperation among organizations. At the beginning the discussion focused upon barriers regarding cooperation among organizations, and how it might be possible to overcome them in order to allow broader social change and the creation of coalitions. Further, ideas of how it might be possible to encourage cooperation were raised. Concrete ties were formed between students who are active in several frameworks.
            Finally, the sixth group was composed of students and residents active in Mahapach-Taghir. The group held an intra-organizational discussion about what could be taken from the contents and messages of the seminar and applied in the organization, stressing the enrichment of residents of the different communities, and encouragement of community and student activism.
At the end of the seminar, participants filled feedback forms which included several criteria for the evaluation of the seminar. The evaluation results were excellent, and constitute an additional testimony of the seminar's success. Students wrote that the diversity of workshops in the seminar was very good, that workshops were very interesting, and that facilitation was great. The organizational aspects of the seminar were also awarded high marks. Most importantly, students considered the seminar as an event that would greatly contribute to their social engagement in the future. 
There are no better and more important comments than those of students about the seminar, taken from the anonymous feedback forms:
“Lately I have been preoccupied with myself, and less engaged in social actions such as this seminar – the seminar aroused in me motivation, especially as I am towards completing my degree, and gave me energy and thought to make change through work, and continue with the idea of the seminar”.
“The seminar definitely gave me a push and stimulated me to think about the issue of social co-operations.”
“I have been exposed to new activities and am happy to get back to action.”
“I personally enjoyed the seminar and acquired many things –in most of the workshops in which I participated I saw serious students, who invested in the preparation of their lectures.”
“I was greatly contributed by this seminar, it contributed to my empowerment both in relation to work, and personally, made me think about my future in social action.”
“It was amazing, charming, I did not expect it to be so fun and interesting. Thank you.”
With the completion of this successful seminar, we hope that this tradition of an annual gathering will become a milestone in the students' journey of social engagement, constitute a space for thought, discussion, and impetus towards action. Currently, the seminar is a singular event, particularly in its scope, for student activists form different organizations from across the country. Therefore it presents a unique opportunity for creating an activist student discourse, and for encouraging the integration of the triangle – students, academy, and organizations for social change.