As part of their studies about their city, fellows of the Mandel Program for Local Leadership in Afula took part in the first Akko Convention on Urbanism, held on November 17-18. The convention was organized and supported by a number of bodies, including the Akko municipality, JDC-ELKA Institute for Leadership and Governance, the Jewish-Arab Center, the Ministry of Housing, the government planning administration, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Jewish National Fund, and the UN Habitat III World Urban Campaign.
Mandel Center for Leadership in the North faculty members Shahira Shalaby and Ayelet Ilany presented the Center’s work at a convention session on population diversity. Ilany described the Center’s activities over the last three years in Migdal HaEmek and Afula, and Shalaby spoke about the principles guiding its work in Arab cities in the north. This led to a lively discussion with the session participants, in particular about the question of connecting between different groups in the city and between the various bodies active in the public sphere.
The fellows attended different workshops and discussion groups, according to their individual interests, and at the end of the day got together to share and discuss interesting ideas and concepts that arose. Further reflection on the convention will form part of the next session of the program in Afula. This session will host Dr. Meirav Aharon-Gutman, an urban sociologist, who also presented at the convention. Dr. Aharon-Gutman will talk about her research on Afula, and will help the fellows explore further concepts of urbanism. Dr. Aharon-Gutman will talk about her research on Afula, and will help the fellows explore further concepts of urbanism.
In another element of their studies focusing on their home city, the fellows led each other on a series of walking tours in the style of “Jane’s Walks.” Jane’s Walk is an urban initiative that involves free, citizen-led walking tours which get people to tell stories about their communities, explore their cities, and connect with their neighbors. They are named for Jane Jacobs (1916-2006), an urbanist and activist whose writings championed a fresh, community-based approach to city building. The fellows Itay Eliyahu and Omer Lev led the first Jane’s Walk in Afula’s lower city; then Riki Tauber, Gershon Dessta and Yaniv Bouganim led a tour of Givat Hamoreh. Walking through the city changes one’s perceptions of the urban environment, providing an