Tehila Friedman is a religious woman that covers her hair outside of the home.Iman Khatib-Yasin is also a religious woman that covers her hair outside of the home.Friedman is a Jewish Religious Zionist – a member of a community known for its right-wing views, social conservatism and the religious settlement movement it encompasses.Khatib-Yasin is the first woman to represent the Ra’am party, the country’s most Islamist and conservative party.Both
hold their identities strongly.Friedman engages deeply with key figures from across the ideological spectrum of her community, though she sits firmly on the community’s leftwards wing. Khatib-Yasin refuses to cast aside tradition, traveling to all speaking engagements with her father-in-law.But from their positions of strong identity, both women are willing to reach outside the traditional boundaries of their communities, and strive for an Israeli society with greater collaboration and understanding across sectoral lines.For example, Friedman is the only coalition member that sits on the Knesset subcommittee on violence against Arab women. In her first interview as a member of Knesset, Khatib-Yasin said, “I came to seek Common Good.”What did she mean by “Common Good”?The Shaharit Institute, champions of the Common Good in Israel, roughly defines the ideology as each group keeping their identity, while building solidarity and mutual responsibility with others of different identities.Khatib-Yasin adopted this terminology while participating in Shaharit’s “120” training program for diverse young political leaders from across the spectrum of Israeli society. Friedman was the director of Shaharit’s work in the Religious Zionist community.The Common Good approach seeks to overcome the divisive state of Israeli society and politics. Currently, Israel’s different sociopolitical “tribes,” holding distinct worldviews, see each other as competitors and rivals in a zero-sum competition to define Israel in their own visions, rather than as partners in a shared future.The notion of the Common Good comes in contrast to more classical liberal notions of how to build a cooperative multicultural society, and responds to the social-historical reality of life in Israel.Israel’s Ashkenazi, secular founders attempted to create a “melting pot” by overlooking or erasing the diverse identities and worldviews of Jews entering Israel from all over the world, demanding all live under a Western, secular framework (at least in public places and governmental affairs). This hegemonic approach of “imposing my group’s perception of good on the public space of all of us” has been broken, especially by demographic changes in Israel – the country is now approximately 21% Arab and 74% Jewish – from the Jews, 45% describe themselves as secular, 25% masorti (traditional), 16% religious/very religious (this includes Reforms and Conservatives) and 14% are Ultra-Orthodox. No one group has the power to define Israeli society by themselves.As groups outside of the traditional Ashkenazi hegemony have gained power, they have repeated the strategy of the country’s founders, attempting to in turn impose their own worldviews on the rest of the country. With each group trying to impose their views on the other, no group feels secure, each feels they are losing the Israel they know and love and Israeli politics and society have devolved into a battleground of zero-sum conflict, with little space for the collaboration needed to address Israel’s most pressing issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, growing economic inequalities and educational deficiencies.Continuing to try to impose a worldview on others and ask others to give up their core identities is obviously, then, not a winning strategy, and the political situation demonstrates this – the Israeli Left is at its weakest point in decades, and the general state of political cooperation is bleak.So what is the alternative?I believe it is demonstrated by Friedman and Khatib-Yassin. Neither are giving up their identities or asking anyone else to. Both realize we are all in this together, and can’t improve this country without partners from across society. They recognize that there will be conflicts – but with personal relationships and trust, these conflicts can be dealt with in pursuit of the Common Good.We wish them both strength and determination in their work.The writer is a Resource Development Coordinator at the Shaharit Institute, an Israeli NGO working to create a common cause amongst Israel’s diverse populations.