The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute established in 2015 the Manarat (“lighthouses” in Arabic) Centre in recognition of the great importance of fostering projects related to Arab culture and society and to Jewish-Arab relations in Israel. Manarat throws its light on a variety of issues related to Jewish and Arab relations in Israel by promoting partnerships between Jewish and Arab organizations and facilitating research headed equally by Arab and Jewish scholars. The centre’s activities highlight the challenges facing Israeli society and reveal the methods and principles likely to promote understanding, shared life, and mutual respect.
Manarat aims to attain these objectives through three main fields of activity: First are projects relating to the Arabic language. The underlying idea is that language is a proxy for social and political relations. Therefore, focusing attention on it through projects that analyse its status in Israel, bolster its presence in the public space, and emphasize translation and dissemination of new knowledge from Arabic into Hebrew will promote a set of values and insights about Jewish-Arab relations.
The second group of activities deals with local political issues associated with the current sensitivities of Israeli society, given the weakening of democratic and liberal values, the lack of tolerance, and the rise of overtly racist remarks about Arabs. The projects promote broad public discussion of current issues pertaining to Jewish-Arab relations in Israel as well as closed discussions by professional panels concerning nationwide tensions in Israel. These activities encourage “out-of-the-box” thinking that builds on the importance of peace and equality.
The third branch engages in regional action, attempting to redress the hostile relations between Israeli society and countries and societies of the Middle East. A variety of projects aim to instil different knowledge – cultural, social, political, and human – about the region in which Israel is located: the Middle East. To sketch the possibility of future neighbourly relations in the region and a way out of the long stalemate, the projects encourage fresh, courageous thinking that sheds new light on issues at the heart of the protracted conflict in the region.