Building Bridges, provides innovative ideas for strengthening American democracy. The examples set forth are meant to empower civil society by legitimizing, teaching and practicing coexistence. As the country with the largest number of minority groups within its borders, the United Sates faces many coexistence challenges. This introduction of coexistence techniques successfully implemented in Israel offers practical alternatives for use in the United Sates.
Coexistence is a term that has been chosen deliberately. Coexistence is a minimal, least demanding way for people to relate to one another. Coexistence does not deny distinctiveness. In fact, it encourages it, respecting the rich diversity in an ethnically mixed society and honoring certain boundaries. Because of this, coexistence does not threaten existing cultural heritages. Rather, it focuses on the opportunities that can lead to enhanced understanding and respect; even cordial, constructive relations among different communities within society.
Deepening and expanding America's democracy mandates that the majority accept coexistence. This involves learning about and meeting with the minority. The acceptance of coexistence as a basic item on the US national agenda can reduce what Lanie Guanier called, The Tyranny of the Majority, assuring that both majority and minority feel they are part of a society whose future is brighter and more secure because of their mutual acceptance of each other.
The good news is that coexistence is possible. We at The Abraham Fund know, from eight years of work in Israel, that coexistence is an educable concept, an achievable political objective, and can be put into practice when people are dedicated to doing so. Truly civil societies can be strengthened through coexistence awareness. This includes public policy, education and day-to-day practice. And that is the focus of this book.
I am convinced that the working models presented here can be readily applied to the coexistence opportunities in the United States. Israel is a very young country situated in a very difficult region of the world. Despite the history of tensions under difficult circumstances between Jew and Arab, Israel has proven to be fertile soil in which to plant and develop coexistence enhancing models. Within a short time, those coexistence projects supported by The Abraham Fund have demonstrated that majority/minority coexistence can be enhanced at the grass roots level. Funding and educating towards coexistence can be an important tool for empowering civil society and strengthening democracy.
In conclusion, I believe that coexistence in America can be enhanced by leadership, lay and political, who first recognize and accept that there is a need for coexistence and then move beyond that toward legitimization and broad education, leading to general practice . If we are to achieve widespread civil empowerment and a strengthening of democracy in the United States, coexistence is the only alternative.
Alan. B. Slifka
Chairman and Co-founder
The Abraham Fund