‘Biting into the Yeshiva World’: What are Yeshiva Students Doing at a Geneva Initiative Meeting in Tel Aviv?

By Sari Rot, Haredi 10

via Haredi 10 (click here to read the original article in Hebrew)

The Yesh Atid party is trying to organize educational meetings with Yeshiva (religious seminary) students – for the time being unsuccessfully. One group, however, has been successful: the ‘Geneva Initiative’. Within the framework of the meetings that the Initiative organizes to influence decision makers, they do not limit themselves just to senior political advisors of Shas. The target: yeshiva students. This week students from prestigious yeshivas in Bnei Brak participated in a meeting with Yossi Beilin.

In recent weeks senior figures in Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party have tried to organize ‘educational’ meetings, within the framework of the party’s election campaign for the 20th Knesset, which are targeted at yeshiva students.

Despite these attempts, it seems that to date the party has not succeeded in organizing any meetings of this type with yeshiva students or the ultra-orthodox Israelis.

However, it turns out that one group has for some time been successfully organizing meetings like these: the ‘Geneva Initiative’.

The Initiative, which is located in Tel Aviv, organizes meetings, conferences, workshops, seminars and courses for different target groups, in order to influence decision makers.

Among others, it organizes programming for MK’s, party activists, journalists, with the participation of Israeli politicians together with Palestinian politicians and public figures, with the goal of creating a broad public infrastructure for a future agreement. Many activities are run for Russian speaking Israelis and also in partnership with the Shas party. Shas MKs, and senior women in the party have participated in gatherings organized by the Initiative.

The Geneva Initiative told us that “We have worked for years with Shas, from MKs to rabbis, members of religious councils and other activists.”

However, a year ago three Shas MKs were meant to travel overseas to participate in a Geneva Initiative seminar together with a number of field activists from the party, but the Chairman of Shas, Arieh Deri cancelled the trip.

If in the past, the meetings focused on public figures, journalists and thought leaders, recently the Geneva Initiative is also turning to yeshiva students. On Monday, at the Geneva Initiative offices in Tel Aviv, a meeting took place with ultra-orthodox Israelis, including a group of yeshiva students. The meeting took place with former minister, Yossi Beilin, who headed the teams that developed the ‘Geneva Initiative’ for an Israeli-Palestinian permanent status agreement, with the support of the Swiss government.

The meeting included, according to the Initiative, “A conversation on Israel’s diplomatic situation and on possible scenarios for after the elections. The objective is to present the solutions offered by the Geneva Initiative; to teach about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; to bring experts; to present facts and statistics; and to arrange for our target audiences, Shas and others to meet with senior Palestinians.”

Haredim 10 has learnt that students from prestigious yeshivas in Bnei Brak participated in the meeting. Some of them even expressed interest in participating in the Geneva Initiative’s next course.