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Summing Up the First Year of the Afula Leadership Program

The directors of the Mandel Program for Local Leadership in Afula sum up the first academic year of the program and elaborate on the topics to be emphasized this year and next year

​The first year of the Mandel Program for Local Leadership in Afula is coming to an end, as the fellows submit their final projects and meet individually with the program directors. This was a year of intensive study through many methods and various perspectives.

The program worked toward four goals this year:

The first goal was to create relationships and partnerships between the various groups of residents in Afula, by means of fruitful dialogue and building a common language among the fellows to influence the nature of public discourse in the city. The goal was for the discourse to focus on common interests of the residents while acknowledging their different visions for Afula's future and for improving the quality of life in the city. We worked toward this goal in two principal ways:

  • Forming deep interpersonal acquaintances and building a relationship of trust as the first stage: devoting a great deal of time to fostering deep personal and professional acquaintance (for example, by means of Jane's Walks in the childhood environments of the fellows, educational tours of the workplaces of others, etc.)
  • Cultivating deep familiarity among the groups and building working groups that "crossed social group divides" in order to work for common interests. We built three working groups that crossed the various reference groups in the city (ethnic, religious, socioeconomic, length of residence, neighborhood, etc.). Each group will work to promote a public vision and public interest in various contexts.

Our second goal was to improve the fellows' working methods and their ability to influence their environment. The program emphasized examination of the work methods of the fellows. The fellows investigated their work methods in practice by clarifying their values, defining their vision, and engaging in theoretical conceptualization of their work in reality. For this purpose, the entire team was mobilized to develop a model of "work analysis," under the guidance of Yafa Benaya, an outside consultant. A series of 12 meetings took place in four small groups, which were facilitated by four staff members who guided the fellows in investigating their activity in their workplaces. The fellows valued this part of the program very much. Each fellow received an opportunity to present key dilemmas in his or her professional and public environment and analyze them together with the facilitator and the group from a theoretical perspective, in an intimate, respectful atmosphere.

The third goal selected, based on preparatory research done for us by Dr. Meirav Aharon Gutman of the Technion, concerned the environment, at a time when Afula is undergoing an accelerated process of construction and physical growth. We studied and examined the options for optimal development of the rapidly changing urban space. According to Afula's master plan, the city's population is expected to reach approximately 130,000 residents by 2025. Together, using various tools, we investigated the range of options for developing a "suitable city" in terms of its physical, human, and communal make up. We devoted a series of meetings to in-depth study of the city: its history, processes of development, absorption of waves of immigration and the effect of the immigrants on the city, the meaning of its moniker "the capital of the Jezreel Valley" and its challenges. We discussed the values that define the suitable city, as well as various urban models for "good urbanism," with their benefits and drawbacks. We learned about attempts by Israel and other countries to rebrand their cities, revive downtown areas, promote varied uses of the city, and engage in social urban planning that takes into account the variety of traffic in the public space as well as the needs of the various communities and groups that live there.

The fourth and final goal, which will accompany us into the second academic year of the program, is the city's relationship with its environment and the potential of regional development and cooperation between Afula and its neighbors.