At the end of March, fellows of the Mandel Program for Local Leadership in Afula convened for a two-day retreat in Jerusalem, on the subject of Public Policy Design and Implementation.
The first day began with a tour of the Supreme Court. The fellows learned about the architectural design of the building, the different types of judicial activity that take place there, and the Supreme Court justices themselves. The group met with Justice Anat Baron, and heard about the influence of the Supreme Court on public policy in Israel and the role of the court in defending democracy and curbing anti-democratic tendencies. Justice Baron also spoke about issues currently on the public agenda, such as the proposed agreement for exploiting Israel's newly-discovered natural gas reserves. This was a unique opportunity to hear about the professional work of Supreme Court justices first-hand.
Next, the fellows met with Danny Bar Giora, director of the Mandel School for Educational Leadership, who shared insights into policy questions that he developed in three positions he has held: high school principal, head of the Jerusalem education administration, and head of implementation for the Ministry of Education's New Horizon ("Ofek Hadash") reforms. Dr. Neta Sher-Hadar, head of policy studies at the School, described the complexities of the field of public policy, in terms of both research and practice, and presented some of the key questions asked about and within the field.
On the second day of the retreat, the fellows met with Gil Rivosh, director of the strategy department of the Jerusalem municipality, and with Yael Gabai, who is responsible for the municipality's plan for employment and exit from poverty. For the fellows, this was a truly revolutionary meeting. They were presented with some impressive strategic thinking, based on data collection and on cooperation with different bodies, which was carried out in order to identify the target populations that need the most intensive interventions. The two leaders explained in detail the long and painstaking process they had undergone in order to reach the best possible formula. Their honesty, their willingness to speak about failed attempts, and most of all their seriousness and professionalism, impressed the group enormously.
Following this, the group visited the budget division at the Ministry of Finance, where the coordinator of macro-budgeting, Ilya Katz, explained the division's work, its guiding principles, and its vision. In a relatively short meeting, Ilya managed to undermine several popular and widely-held conceptions about the ministry and its work. At the end, the fellows expressed their interest in learning much more about the subject.
The final meeting of the retreat took place at the Knesset, where fellows met with Dr. Shirley Avrami, director of the Knesset Research and Information Center. Dr. Avrami described the pivotal importance and influence that the center and the data that its researchers collect have on MKs and on the legislative process.
The program directors, Ayelet Ilany and Dalit Caspin, were impressed by the fellows' immense interest in the various subject areas they encountered. Almost all the fellows reported that most of the information they heard was new to them, and said that they intended to learn more about it.