Israel Symposium 2020

Only 2 sessions left in the program.
Sign up now—all previous sessions have sold out!

The symposium costs are greater than these will cover. If you become a sponsor, along with your contribution, you can attend all remaining sessions at no extra cost, including our two Grand Finale Bonus Sessions on Sun/8 Nov.

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Thank you to our sponsors!

Advocates Circle
Topol Family Foundation

Friendship Circle
Irl Barg
Sam Fleischacker
Henri Goettel
Claude Goldenberg
Bill Hochhausen
Soryl Rosenberg

For the past 30 years, Partners for Progressive Israel has
led groups on progressive political trips to Israel.

This year—for the first time—we will be leading the trip virtually.

At the birth of Israel, many Jews in America and elsewhere dreamed a dream: Israel would be a safe haven for Jews in a post-Holocaust world; Israel would be an authentic social democracy; Israel, as the prophets declared, would be a light unto the nations. Today, 72 years later, participants in this virtual excursion to Israel and Palestine will explore ways in which Israel has lived up to its prophetic calling and ways in which it has failed to do so.

Visit the Knesset,
Go into the West Bank and Gaza,
Discuss Two-State, One State, Confederation?
Hang out with the NGO Leaders, the Voices of Hope,
Debate how to Preserve a Jewish and Democratic State,
Wrestle with issues of equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel

Participants will adventure into the current realities of a country
born of a dream.

Symposium members will encounter—first-hand—leaders on the ground who will speak to the possibilities of a just peace between Israel and Palestine. We will examine Israel’s triumphs and disappointments in the realm of human and civil rights. We will look at challenges to Israel as a self-proclaimed Jewish and democratic state. Meeting key policy makers and civilian leaders in both Israel and Palestine, participants will have the opportunity to hear their thoughts, engage with them in direct dialogue, and finally assess what they have heard in follow-up discussions with fellow Symposium members.

The symposium will take place on Zoom over twelve, two-hour sessions (Session 1: 11am – 1pm ET; Session 2: 1:30pm – 3:30pm ET) on six Sundays:

❖ August 16                      ❖ September 13                       ❖ November 1
❖ August 23                      ❖ October 25                            ❖ November 8 – Bonus Day
❖ August 30                                                                      (for participants who register for all 12 sessions)

To allow for substantive discussion, the number of participants will be limited and each of the 12 sessions will be divided as follows:

  • 45-minute presentations by the invited guest speakers
  • 45-minute direct Q & A conversation with the speakers
  • 30-minute discussion among Symposium participants

Past symposiums have included meetings with Bassam Aramin, Hanan Ashrawi, Colette Avital, Sam Bahour, Gershon Baskin, Benny Begin, Yossi Beilin, Naomi Chazan, Yael Dayan, Akiva Eldar, Salam Fayyad, Zehava Galon, Galia Golan, Miki Gitzin, Nitzan Horowitz, Hagit Ofran, President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, Ahmad Tibi, and Tamar Zandberg as well as with NGOs such as Breaking the Silence, B’tselem, Eco-Peace, the Geneva Initiative, Gisha, Givat Haviva, Hagar Jewish/Arab School, Machshom Watch, Mitvim, Molad, Negev Coexistence Forum, Parents Circle/Families Forum, Peace Now, Physicians for Human Rights, Shatil, Standing Together, Women of the Wall and  Women Wage Peace.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

 Visit to the Knesset

SESSION #1:  10:30am – 12:30pm ET (SOLD OUT)
The Future of Israel’s Left: Meretz and Joint List MKs
MK Sondos Saleh (Joint List)
MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz)
Gili Getz (Moderator – Board Member, PPI)

Political dialogue in Israel has traditionally taken place amid heightened emotions. The left-leaning Labor Party, headed initially by David Ben-Gurion, governed Israel for its first three decades. Since that time, with three brief interludes, rightwing governments have held sway. Today’s left in Israel is weaker than at any time in its history, even with substantial gains by the Arab Joint List party in the March election. Participants in this session will meet key members of two parties from the Knesset Opposition: Meretz, a Zionist left party, and the Joint List, whose slate consists of four Arab parties.  Topics for discussion will include how these Knesset members envision a new and different future for Israel.


SESSION #2: 
1:30pm – 3:30pm ET (SOLD OUT)
Voices from the Government: MKs from Likud, Blue & White, and Labor
MK Uzi Dayan (Likud)
Alon Schuster (Blue & White)
Gili Getz (Moderator – Board Member, PPI)

The right-wing Likud party, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, has been the leading party in governing coalitions from 2009 to the present. Two months after the March 2020 election, the centrist party Blue and White unexpectedly joined with Likud to help form a government that has advocated annexation of large areas of the occupied West Bank. Two of the three members of the left-center Labor party also decided to join the government and the party has amalgamated with Blue and White. We will meet representatives of these three parties, part of a larger right-religious coalition, asking them to talk about how this coalition of seemingly disparate parties—including two that represent the ultra-orthodox community—is addressing some of the key issues of the day: peace with the Palestinians, the COVID-19 crisis, and matters of religion and state.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Visits to the West Bank and Gaza

SESSION #3:  10am – 12pm ET (SOLD OUT)
Voices from the Palestinian Authority Leadership in Ramallah
Samih Al-Abed (Coordinator for Gaza Vision 2050 in Ramallah)
Shaddad Al Attili (Advisor ranking minister at the Negotiation Affairs Department)
Varsen Aghabekian (Palestinian Negotiati`ons Support Project)
Sam Fleischacker (Moderator – Board Member, PPI)

The Palestinian Authority is the self-governing Palestinian body established in 1994 in accordance with the Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles (Oslo Accords). We will visit with some members of the current PA leadership in Ramallah, advocates for peace with Israel based on two viable sovereign states. Topics for discussion include many of the so-called final status issues: borders, refugees, Jerusalem, security and water distribution. Additional topics include relationships with the international community in general and the United States in particular. We will also meet with some of the PLO youth who will share how they envision the future of Palestine.


SESSION #4: 
1:30pm – 3:30pm ET (SOLD OUT)
Voices from Gaza and the “Gaza Envelope”
Mohammed Azaiza (Gaza Field Coordinator, Gisha)
Tania Hary (Executive Director, Gisha)
Roni Keidar (Other Voice)
Sam Fleischacker (Moderator – Board Member, PPI)

Since the 2006 elections, Hamas has governed the Gaza Strip. Aside from visitors entering or leaving Gaza at its border with Egypt, those wishing to go to or from Gaza must get permission from Israel which controls Gaza’s borders, as well as its air and sea space.  Our digital symposium allows us access! We will hear about life in Gaza from residents as well as residents of the “Gaza Envelope,” communities located near the border. We will be hosted by Israeli NGOs active in the region, such as Gisha and Kol Acher.

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Sunday, August 30

Two States? One State? Confederation?

SESSION #5:  11am – 1pm ET (SOLD OUT)
The Future as Envisioned by Israeli and Palestinian Youth
Achlam Kasim Ali (Ajyal)
Lev Litman (Centers for Social Justice)
Osama Eleat (Combatants for Peace)
Rula Daood (Standing Together)
Lenny Grob (Moderator – Vice President, PPI)

The future of Israel and Palestine will not only—or perhaps will not even primarily—be determined by the current Israeli and Palestinian leaders. The youth of both peoples will carry the proverbial torch and will be at the forefront of political and cultural change. Empowered, they can serve as the key agents for a peaceful and just future. Hence, this session is devoted to meetings with politically active youths from both Israel and Palestine. They will share their visions for the future, especially with regard to a peaceful resolution of the ongoing conflict. Do they still envisage a two-state solution? One state for all its citizens? A form of confederation? We’ll hear young voices envisioning what is to be.

SESSION #6:  1:30pm – 3:30pm ET (SOLD OUT)
Voices for Resolution of the Conflict: New Paradigms of Thought—and Action
Khaled Abu Awwad (Roots/Shorashim/Judur)
Rabbi Hanan Schleslnger (Roots/Shorashim/Judur)
Raz Saker (A Land for All)
Thabet Abu Ras (A Land for All)
Sam Fleischacker (Moderator – Board Member, PPI)
(Please note Roots does not officially support confederation; they do not advocate for a particular political plan).

Increasingly, voices are heard in the region exploring ways in which Israel and Palestine may still exercise their right of self-determination in sovereign states of their own, while at the same time recognizing that the land from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River is the homeland of both peoples. The vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians, in their heart of hearts, aspire—even within a construct in which two sovereignties exist—to have the freedom to travel or live anywhere within their homeland. This dream finds resonance in the thinking of two Israeli-Palestinian organizations that explore efforts at confederation: “Two States, One Homeland,” (also called A Land for all) and “Roots/Shorashim/Judur.”

Sunday, September 13

Kolot—Voices of Hope

SESSION #7:  11am – 1pm ET (SOLD OUT)
The Healing Work of NGO Leaders
Mazal Bisawer (Association of Ethiopian Jews)
Nader Khateeb (WEDO – Water and Environmental Organization)
Michal Gera Margaliot (Israel’s Women Network)
Professor Raphi Walden (Physicians for Human Rights Israel)
Karen Shapiro (Moderator – Vice President, PPI)

Israeli Non-Governmental Organizations play a critically important role in support of human and civil rights both in Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as sponsoring people-to-people peacemaking between Israeli Jews and Palestinians. Progressive actions that could fall within the responsibility of governmental bodies have been undertaken by NGOs during recent decades of right-wing rule. We will meet with the heads of these organizations and they will share their stories about the challenges they face as they work, from the bottom up, to create a just Israel. These NGOs fill minds and hearts with hope for a peaceful future and one in which basic human rights are realized.

SESSION #8:  1:30pm – 3:30pm ET (SOLD OUT)
Peacemaking Through the Arts
Nitsan Gordon (Together Beyond Words)
Said Abu Shaqra (Umm al-Fahm Art Gallery)
Yehoshua Sobol (Playwright, Author, Director)
Karen Shapiro (Moderator – Vice President, PPI)

The arts play an important role in creating hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Often. the visual and performing arts can speak to audiences in ways that discursive speech or writing cannot. Israeli and Palestinian NGOs have excelled in supporting artists, both individuals and groups, in the work of conflict resolution. We will meet individual artists and companies of artists from among the fields of dance, theater, film, and the visual arts. We’ll experience first-hand their work toward reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.

Sunday, October 25

The Struggle to Preserve a Jewish & Democratic Israel

SESSION #9:  11am – 1pm ET [SOLD OUT]
The Battle for Religious Pluralism in Israel
Dr. Yizhar Hess (CEO, The Masorti Movement)
Rabbi Uri Regev (CEO, Hiddush)
Rabbi Noa Sattath (Director, Israel Religious Action Center)
Rabbi Silverman (Founding Director, Second Nurture)
Rabbi Andrea London (Moderator – Board Member, PPI)

The Orthodox Chief Rabbinate has exclusive control of life-cycle matters pertaining to birth, marriage, divorce, conversion, and death of Jews in Israel. In recent decades, the modest growth of the Reform and Conservative movements, as well as advocacy for religious pluralism spurred by NGOs such as Hiddush and the Israel Religious Action Center, and societal anger at Orthodox structures have challenged the Orthodox monopoly on a variety of major issues. We will meet with leaders of these movements and reflect on critical matters such as kashrut, travel and work on Shabbat, conversion, and women’s participation in traditional religious observance—including the role of women’s ritual at the Western Wall. How these issues affect relations between Israel and the Diaspora—especially those between Israel and American Jews—will all be explored.

SESSION #10:  1:30pm – 3:30pm ET [SOLD OUT]
Palestinian Citizens of Israel: Issues of Equality & Justice
Mohammad Darawshe (Director, Center for Equality and Shared Society, Givat Haviva)
Esawi Frej (Former Meretz MK)
Firas Khawaled (Ajyal)
Suha Salman Mussa (Executive Director of Mossawa)
Rabbi Andrea London (Moderator – Board Member, PPI)

Palestinian Citizens of Israel (aka “Israeli Arabs”) speak out more and more forcefully for equal rights, not merely on paper but in their everyday lives. During this session we will hear about the unjust treatment of the Arabs of Israel that are manifestations of systemic racism within Israeli society, as well as changes that are creating a larger Israeli Arab middle class. We will meet the leadership of NGOs such as Adalah, advocating for Arab civil and human rights, and The Mossawa Center, promoting equality for Arab citizens of Israel. Young Palestinians growing up with Israeli citizenship but without the same rights as Israeli Jews will also share their stories.

Sunday, November 1

Security and the Deepening Occupation

SESSION #11:  11am – 1pm ET [SOLD OUT]
Balancing Security with Human Rights
MK Yair Golan (Meretz; Retired IDF Major General)
MK Merav Michaeli (Labor)
Ofer Zalzberg (Middle East Program Director, Kelman Institute for Conflict Transformation)
Lenny Grob (Moderator – Vice President, PPI)

Although Israel is a major power in the Middle East, it faces many threats to its security. This session will focus primarily on genuine and perceived threats to Israel’s security stemming from Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. The legitimacy of a democracy rests on preserving an often-fragile equilibrium between protection of the state and the safeguarding of human rights. For Israel, bearing its unique history, maintaining such a balance is an especially daunting task. Issues that may be discussed include allegedly arbitrary killings and detention; restrictions on travel; and home demolitions.

SESSION #12:  1:30pm – 3:30pm ET [SOLD OUT]
Visits to East Jerusalem, Hebron & Susya
Issa Amro (Resident of Hebron)
Hamdan Mohamad Ball (Resident of the Bedouin Village Susya)
Daniel Seidmann (Founder, Terrestrial Jerusalem)
Rebecca Strober (Director of Education, Breaking the Silence)
Lenny Grob (Moderator – Vice President, PPI)

If one were to ask to visit three prime sites of Israel’s deepening occupation, a response might include recommendations to visit East Jerusalem, Hebron, and the Bedouin village of Susya (with regard to internal displacement of Palestinians from their homes). We will hear from four key Israelis and Palestinians who are addressing acts of dehumanization at these sites, among them: the displacement of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers; Israel’s encroachment on Palestinian land in the center of old Hebron; and the expulsion of the Bedouin inhabitants of Susya.

Grand Finale

(for sponsors and participants who registered for all 12 sessions)

 Sunday, November 8

Following the US Elections: What’s Next?

EXTRA SESSION #1:  What’s Next? US/Israel/Palestine Relations
With this session taking place just days following the U.S. elections, we will ask panelists from Israel, Palestine and the U.S. to look at the election results, as they appear at the time, and discuss their expectations as well as their desires moving forward in U.S. relations with both Israel and Palestine.

  • MK Nitzan Horowitz (Leader, Meretz Party)
  • Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen (Director, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Program, U.S. Institute of Peace)
  • Elias Zananiri (Vice-Chairman, PLO Committee for Interaction with Israel Society)
  • Karen Shapiro and Lenny Grob (Moderators – VPs, Partners for Progressive Israel)

EXTRA SESSION #2:  What’s Next? How Can We Support Israel & Palestine?
In this final session of our Symposium, we will culminate our experiences with a discussion on ways to sustain our support of those in the region working for a just two-state solution as well as for human and civil rights for all. We will explore in depth how in the diaspora, we can continue to work in concrete ways in support of Israel toward the realization of these goals. Although we seek projects that we can do where we live, we will have an Israeli and a Palestinian—who are deeply involved in what is happening on the ground in Israel and Palestine—guide us in this conversation. We see this not only as the end of our 14-session symposium, but the beginning of a planning process in which our learnings can be realized in action. In this sense, the symposium continues

  • Galia Golan (Leading Activist, Combatants for Peace)
  • Rafa Mismar (Leading Activist, Combatants for Peace)
  • Karen Shapiro and Lenny Grob (Moderators – VPs, Partners for Progressive Israel)

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Space is limited. We recommend signing up early to secure your spot!

Full Program

12 sessions (2 sessions/day on 6 days) – $180 (SOLD OUT)
(also includes Grand Finale Day, 2 extra sessions)

Individual Sessions

Each session – $20

Sponsorship Levels

The 2020 Israel Symposium costs are greater than these fees will cover. If you are able, please consider joining at the sponsorship level. Along with your contribution, you will be able to attend the full symposium program at no additional cost. Sponsors will be included in all promotional emails as well as on our website.

 $15,000 – Founder’s Circle
$10,000 – Producer’s Circle
$5,000 – Patron’s Circle
$3,000 – Advocate’s Circle
$1,000 – Leadership Circle
$500 – Friendship Circle

download full program in pdf