Unity Day was the initiative of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, joined by Gesher, an organization that has worked for decades to bridge the gaps between different segments of Israeli society, as well the Ministry of Education and the office of Israel’s president.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
June 6 is Unity Day in Israel. Its purpose is to unite Israelis of diverse backgrounds, political opinions and religious views as a nation, despite the differences.
Four summers ago, three Israeli teens were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists and an 18-day search ensued until their bodies were found.
The families of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frankel and Eyal Yifrach felt the support of the entire country, said Naftali’s mother Racheli in an Army Radio interview Wednesday. This included, she emphasized, Arabs, Druze, and Circassians, as well as Jews from Israel and abroad. Many visited the families before the funerals and afterwards, during the shiva mourning period.
“The feeling of being enveloped in warmth, that one is never alone, that there are so many people who care and are ready to do anything… it made an enormous difference,” she told the interviewer.
Unity Day was the initiative of Nir Barkat, mayor of Jerusalem, she noted, joined by Gesher, an organization that has worked for decades to bridge the gaps between different segments of Israeli society, as well the Ministry of Education and the office of Israel’s president.
“There are going to be 400 events in Israel, on the municipal level, at places of work, the police, community centers and, of course, the educational system, and in each one there will be an element of ‘let’s go out of our comfort zone’ and stop if only for one day to go around only with those who are like us…and be in our echo chambers in social media. Let’s listen to and meet others who think differently,” Frankel explained.
She contrasted Unity Day to the day commemorating the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
“On one extreme is the day we remember Rabin’s assassination, when…we remember all the problematic issues that divide us, and on the other extreme, half a year later, we can celebrate all the good and try to create new connections…and do great things together with people who think differently [and] believe differently,” she said.
The Jerusalem Unity Prize is also given out on this day to acknowledge the efforts of organizations and individuals in Israel and the Jewish world who actively work to advance unity throughout Jewish communities and Israeli society.
There are four winners of this year’s prize: the TEC Center (Technology, Education, and Cultural Diversity), which began as a joint venture of three teaching colleges in Israel representing different sectors of society; Runners Without Borders, which uses the sport as a way to build trust between Jews and Arabs; Koolulam, an organization that invites anyone and everyone to sing together for a few hours to create a “social choir” and enjoy being together; and The Jewish Unity Project from Florida in the USA, founded to “inspire and engage every Jew with Jewish experiences of meaning.”
A special honorary life-time achievement award will also be granted to Birthright Israel for bringing young Jewish adults from around the world to experience Israel for the first time on a free 10-day trip.