We’ve come to think of reality television as a source of schadenfreude, so the idea of such a show devoting airtime to spreading a message of fairness and respect for diversity knocks us on our heels. But that’s just what happened on the season finale of Kochav Nolad, the Israeli version of American Idol.
On the show’s July 23rd finale, Kulanana, an initiative supported by UJA-Federation of New York that aims to help young Israelis of all backgrounds become comfortable with the diversity of Israeli society, completed the launch phase of its educational campaign with Kochav Nolad’s finalists singing the song “A Million Heartbeats.” The song, which was written for the occasion, deals with the shared hopes, dreams, and joys that bind together Israelis of all different backgrounds.Arab and Jewish students come together for a dialogue in the Negev at a program conducted by one of Kulanana’s founding partners the Arab-Jewish Center for Equality Empowerment and Cooperation (AJEEC). Photo credit: Merchavim.
“Music is a great medium for bringing people together,” said Mike Prashker, the executive director of Merchavim, the Institute for the Advancement of Shared Citizenship in Israel, which is spearheading the coalition of 15 organizations that are founding partners of Kulanana. “Remember ‘We are the World?’ Creating better inter-group relations is as much about feelings of belonging and worth as it is knowledge about others.”
Prashker related that producers of the show were won over by Merchavim’s long-standing relationship with the Ministry of Education, and assurances that the initiative was strictly non-political. The show reaches a large audience, including many young Israelis, so it seemed like an ideal platform for spreading the message of citizenship, diversity, and fairness. In fact, this season’s finale was viewed by 1.25 million people.
Israel Bucks the Trend
In most democracies, young people tend to be more open-minded, while the older generation is more entrenched in its views, but public opinion research commissioned by Kulanana found that Israel is bucking that trend. Israelis under age 30 are less comfortable with diversity than their forebears. However, the same research found that Israeli youth remain curious about their fellow citizens and more open to change, which the organizations behind Kulanana see as a source of hope for the future.
“We are thrilled to be a part of this groundbreaking and creative initiative,” said Alisa F. Levin, Chair of UJA-Federation’s Commission on the Jewish People. “With our support, Kulanana is helping Israelis of all backgrounds to foster social cohesion and advance a common, inclusive and fair Israeli society.”
In addition to the media boost from the Kochav Nolad song, the participating organizations that make up Kulanana are already rolling out a slew of education, advocacy and volunteering projects designed to ease the major internal tensions they see threatening the success and strength of Israeli society.
Hundreds of young Israeli fans of Kochav Nolad and others posted suggestions online for lyrics to the song, and prominent Israeli songwriters culled the submissions to create the finished product. When translated into English, the song’s final verse reads, “See how all of us are moving as one / A journey of hopes, beliefs and fears / All of us painting the same picture / A perfect picture of Kulanana.”
The word kulanana is an “an optimistic new word,” Prashker said, which combines the words for “all of us” in Israel’s two official languages, Hebrew and Arabic.