State Department award $770,000 to promote diverse Israeli citizenship


The State Department has given $770,000 in grants to Merchavim, an Israeli NGO working on diversity in Israel and shared citizenship for all legal citizens of the country. 

The majority of the grant, some $750,000, will go to epand an existing collaboration between Merchavim and the American nonprofit behind Sesame Street, the Sesame Workshop, to continue to produce Israel’s version of the show, Rechov Sumum, which features Israelis of all stripes – from Jew to Arab. The grant will help develop user-generated content in Hebrew and Arabic for use by 1,200 kindergarten teachers of a number of ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Another $20,000 will go to help Merchavim develop a training manual for its Kulanana initiative. Kulanana is a consortium of NGO, government, business and philanthropic partners who are trying to build inclusive Israeli society by targeting primarily the 16-29 year-old demographic across the country’s five deepest divides: Jews and Arabs, immigrant and veteran Israelis, rich and poor and internal divides within the Jewish and Arab communities. Kulanana is trying to promote initiatives along three major themes – citizenship, diversity and fairness.

Here’s the release from Merchavim:


TEL AVIV, ISRAEL. The U.S. Department of State has awarded two grants, totaling $770,000, to Merchavim, The Institute for the Advancement of Shared Citizenship in Israel, an NGO that works to help all of Israel’s 7.6 million citizens become more comfortable with the diversity that characterizes Israeli society. The new funds will be used to significantly expand an existing project of Merchavim and to help launch a new strategic initiative, titled Kulanana. Together, these efforts will target young citizens from kindergarten through their twenties, where inter-group attitudes are most negative and the opportunities for change are greatest.

An award of $750,000 was made to Merchavim for its collaborative project with Sesame Workshop – the non-profit educational organization that produces Rechov Sumsum, Israel’s “Sesame Street” – and HOP! – Israel’s leading children’s television company. The initiative is co-funded by – and run in full cooperation with – Israel’s Ministry of Education. Approximately 1,200 kindergarten teachers – Jewish and Arab, secular and religious – will be trained jointly to use a new generation of specially-produced Hebrew and Arabic outreach tools for kindergarten, family and community. Thirty-six thousand children and their families will benefit directly, while hundreds of thousands more will participate in the program through television broadcasts and the internet, featuring professionally-edited, user-generated content from kindergartens and families of all backgrounds from across Israel.

“The Merchavim project is helping community members cross the lines of race, religion and class,” said the U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv Spokesperson.  “Bringing citizens from diverse economic, religious and ethnic backgrounds to work together and support each other provides an environment for tolerance and peace.”

“These grants are an important recognition of the importance of our work, providing strategic catalysts for its expansion and sustainability," said Mike Prashker, founder and director of Merchavim, who is leading both initiatives.

A $20,000 grant was also made to Kulanana to develop a training manual.  Kulanana, a   consortium of NGO, government, business and philanthropic partners, is an ambitious new society-building initiative targeted primarily at the 16-29 year-old demographic.  The initiative will address the five deepest divides in Israeli society today: between Jews and Arabs; among Jews; between immigrant and veteran Israelis; among Arabs; and between rich and poor. To combat these divides, Kulanana will work closely with government, business and philanthropy to promote the initiative’s three major themes – citizenship, diversity and fairness. Informed by Merchavim’s consensual “shared citizenship” approach developed over the past twelve years, major programming will include media outreach, volunteerism, educational and government-relations projects, all complemented by a sustained media campaign using traditional and new platforms, such as social networking.

Merchavim (“spaces” in Hebrew) was founded in 1998 to develop and disseminate the concept of Israeli "shared citizenship”, in order to shape a more cohesive and successful society. Its mission is to help all of Israel’s citizens live together better by learning about each other, valuing diversity, developing a shared civic awareness and cooperating to make their classrooms and communities fairer and more cohesive.By training and equipping Israel’s teachers with high-quality Hebrew and Arabic-language teaching resources from kindergarten through high-school, Merchavim – in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Education – aims to help transform the educational system into one that more effectively teaches young Israelis about their fellow citizens and makes them increasingly appreciative of the diversity that characterizes modern-day Israel. 

For more information, go to:


Recommended from JTA