Spearheading networking and cooperation activities

Throughout the Heschel Center’s history, the organization has been characterized by what might be called a “small institutional ego.” In other words, because the Heschel Center works through networking and partnerships to create a different discourse and a paradigm shift in relating to society and environment – and especially because it does not compete with other organizations over one agenda or another – it has had the advantage of connecting different organizations and different agendas. This has enabled us to work together with many bodies, collaborating and leading inter-organizational processes.

Our ability to create a dialogue, to convene various institutions, and to build collaborations, was expressed in a networking tool created by the center: the annual “Maof” conferences held by the Center since its inception.

Each “Maof” conference was an attempt to bring to the table different players who usually do not sit with each other. The first conference, in 1999, brought together, for the first time, representatives of various organizations in the broad environmental field that had simply never convened before. This conference outlined the path of the environmental movement for years to come.

Each year, the conference focused on the needs and agenda of a different target audience. These included: the heads of environmental organizations and movement, Green Now – local election activists (there were two conferences with this emphasis), food, environmental and social organizations, Galilee and Northern activists, community workers and activists. Most recently, the 2016 Maof Climate Conference, with over a hundred participants, was held with the express goal of initiating the Israeli climate movement (see below).

These conferences, together with the publications and the development of leadership in frameworks like the fellowship program, have positioned the Heschel Center as the leading body in terms of framing, spreading and implementing new ideas, and of building conceptual and practical tools for the entire social-environmental movement.

The climate conference created a significant resonance in the environmental movement, which started the climate movement in Israel and gave birth to initiatives in the field that are still developing and taking shape.

Both independently and within the framework of the umbrella organization of the environmental movement “Life and Environment” [E1], we have been very active in crafting the movement’s policy, and in establishing the coalition of movements “Paths to Sustainability” [E2]. This Coalition was the civil society’s representative to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Climate, and was responsible for producing shadow reports to analyze and critique government policy in these areas.

The Heschel Center has produced a number of documents of national importance to promote environmental policy in general, and climate in particular:

In this vein, when a number of foundations (CRB, Cummings, Dorot, the New Israel Fund) joined forces to establish the Green Environment Fund (GEF, 2001-2014) and sought to develop a strategic vision for the environmental field in Israel, it was Eilon Schwartz to whom they turned
for help in formulating their vision.

Before Facebook gained momentum as a networking tool among environmentalists, we created the first environmental social network – Green Change – which for many years connected thousands of activists in hundreds of fields throughout the country.

Here is a partial list of partnerships with other institutions in Israel:

Social and educational organizations:

Environmental organizations: Association of Towns for the Environment Beit Netofa Valley (Sakhnin), Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, LINK, CFE-Citizens for the Environment in the Galilee, Adam Teva V’Din (the IUED), Israel Energy Forum, Israel for Bikes.

Research and the Academy:

The Jerusalem Institute (in the WorldWatch mentioned above, 2030 scenarios and an urban sustainability project), the Van Leer Institute, Porter School of Environmental Studies, Tel Aviv University, Kibbutzim College, Oranim College, Tel Aviv-Jaffa College. The borders of the country are not the boundaries of Heschel’s cooperation.

Cooperation with foreign organizations includes:

The leading American Jewish environmental organization Hazon has long been a partner in a number of projects, the largest of which is the Siach project.

The goal of Siach was to build a network of environmental and social activists in the Jewish world on three continents: Israel, the United States, and Europe, and it has involved hundreds of activists in these countries, including representatives of 40 Israeli organizations.