Galilee Fellows Celebrate Phase II Milestone

By Dr. David Dunetz

A buzz could be felt in the room as guests and the Galilee Fellows settled for their final presentation session in the TAEQ (Town Association for Environmental Quality) building. Arabs and Jews, professionals and alumni. All have come to offer advice and support to the budding new initiatives.

Liat began by presenting her initiative "FOOD FOR 8" to bring alternative healthy and tasty food containing allergens. At face value, an exotic "niche", how is it connected, one may query, to values of sustainability and Galilee leadership that the Fellows program set out to inculcate? A closer look, however, reveals that this is precisely what the Fellowship is about. LIke most good ideas, Liat began with a need she herself has grappled with raising Orian, her 4 year old daughter. As it turns out, 85% of foods are off limits to hyper-allergic kids and adults. Foods that contain the big eight allergenics abound (milk, nuts, peanuts, sesame, fish, eggs, wheat, soy). Most of the alternatives are either risky ("may contain.."), pricey or hard to get, or patently not tasty. For young and old alike, not being able to eat with others can be a source of isolation as the outsider in the pack.

Liat dived in with her dream of creating an alternative, as the Fellows program gave her the support, mentorship and connections to bring the idea to fruition. As she learned, there is a potentially huge audience out there: in Israel alone there are 400,000 allergic people who stand to benefit, and three times that amount if we include vegans and gluten-free folk. Liat is now developing the business model for the first non-allergenic quality chocolate factory in Israel. And she has stirred interest in potential investors.

As for sustainability values, Liat sees this as a boost to sustainable regional economy by creating work places particularly for women in the Galilee. And even more, this could serve as a way of raising awareness to get foods properly labeled and available for all. 100% safety and 100% tasty.

Liat's story is one of five different projects that reached the finish line in the second cohort of the Galilee Fellows. Others are no less promising, like Yoav's project of converting the Hanaton Educational Center - affiliated with the Conservative movement - where hundreds of pre- and post-army interns and groups from abroad will take part in a living learning and demonstration model of pluralism and sustainability values. Or the new B.A. program in social innovation founded at the Oranim College by Batya, weaving geography teaching, creativity and hands on problem-solving in communities and civil society organizations in the region. And lastly, Ofer's initiative for getting candidates in the upcoming municipal elections to upgrade their environmental agenda and take a pledge to implement sustainability on the ground. Ofer has gone on to even dream up a second project to reach every home in the Galilee to lower energy consumption and waste.

Each Fellow has come a long way to incubate their ideas into practical projects ready to be launched. Ideas that will make a difference - to forge news pathways for meaningful livelihood in the Galilee.

Beyond that as was obvious to all who were there - trust has been built, friendships forged for life. Seeds have been planted to enrich the Galilee as the common home of Jews and Arabs.

No small feat these days of fractured and polarized communities.

The Galilee Fellows is the product of a unique collaboration forged between two organizations who took the step to create the space for this to happen: TAEQ and the Heschel Center, and the committed and skillful facilitation of the Fellows team.

Blessings and thanks to all our funders and supporters who have backed the idea even when it must have seemed a pipe dream.

Surely, there is much work ahead for us all. But there are days we can be allowed to revel just a bit, to observe what has been accomplished, before we roll up our sleeves to launch the third cohort.

The Heschel Center

The Heschel Center for Sustainability works to promote a sustainable Israel: a just and cohesive society, a robust and democratic economy, and a healthy and productive environment for all its residents, now and in the future.