French Opinion Leaders - June 2013

Dates: June 22-27, 2013

A delegation of French civil society leaders of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds traveled to Israel with Project Interchange in June.  This was the 10th seminar PI has sponsored for opinion leaders from France since 2005.  Like all PI seminars, this seminar introduced participants to Israeli society, politics, and strategic issues in all their complexities. Participants met with Arab Israeli and Jewish Israeli government officials, the French Ambassador, academic experts, religious leaders, and social activists. They toured the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, the Old City of Jerusalem including the Temple Mount, and the Knesset to better understand Jewish history and contemporary Israeli politics. The delegation also travelled to Ramallah and met with Palestinian government officials.

The main themes of the seminar, however, included intergroup and interreligious cooperation and understanding, and integration and immigration issues. The delegation discussed Arab-Israeli cooperation with famous Arab-Israeli author Sayed Kashua, administrators of the diverse Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv, the directors of United Hatzalah, the largest all-volunteer emergency medical services organization which includes Arabs and Jews, the CEO of the Re-Lod Project, which is reviving the mixed and troubled city of Lod, and Jewish and Arab religious leaders in Jerusalem and Abu Ghosh.  Highlights of the program also included a visit to the Peres Center for Peace and a meeting with Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran.  One participant commented, “This trip has allowed me to develop my network and put forth a new model of cooperation with a diversity of people in France.”

The seminar was led by Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of AJC France.