Heschel Center for Sustainability
Who we are
The Heschel Center is Israel’s leading advocate for a sustainable Israel: a just society with a robust democratic economy and a healthy environment, now and for future generations. Founded in 1998, we are based in Tel Aviv, and have a national reach and presence, with a network of change-makers spread all over Israeli society that are committed to integrate sustainability practices and values among their communities.
Poisoned air, climate disruption, growing gaps between rich and poor, isolation and discrimination against the other, despair and violence, are all examples of how unsustainable policies and practices are rife and deeply imbedded in Israeli society. Our vision is a healthy world, where people and planet flourish with dignity.
The twin challenges of climate change and social justice lie at the heart of the human agenda in this century. The Heschel Center provides the inspiration and ideas while building collaborative platforms to empower effective leadership for transition to a sustainable Israeli society that can rise to those challenges.
What we do
Through creating a home for leaders and developing and disseminating ideas and skills, the Heschel Center:
- Creates frameworks through which potential change agents can become sustainability leaders, and support the implementation of their initiatives.
- Connects theoretical knowledge with practical skills, and spreads the vision of broad sustainability in creative ways.
Heschel’s flagship initiative, The Sustainability Leaders Fellows Program, now concluded its 19th cohort of 14 new Fellows, continues to be the leading training program for social-environmental leaders in Israel. With 340 alumni, the Fellowship represents leadership in diversity. The program targets potential change makers in positions of influence – business, politics (including several MKs), media, free professions, social change; Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews, center and periphery—providing them an in-depth learning process along with the tools to develop joint projects that have a real and lasting impact. The successful alumni network implements our vision of promoting sustainability through a widening interlinked community, whose work we catalyze and nurture
The Center for Local Sustainability works directly with municipalities, regional councils, and their leadership and professional staffs in national and local training programs tailor made for their realities and needs, and has created 20 Local Sustainability Centers in the social and geographic periphery of Israel.
The Center for Sustainability Studies provides intensive transformative learning courses for leaders, professionals and change agents from all over Israel, currently including: Strategic Planning for Sustainability, Community-Based Sustainable Education, Regional Fellows programs, and tailor-made programs for different organizations and institutions such as the Israeli Scouts, Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the Society of Nature Protection in Israel.
The Center is focusing its efforts on developing a new online platform to engage a more massive amount of people and bring them to the world of sustainability.
The Israel 2050 Project (The Heschel Climate Project)
Probably our most ambitious wide-scale collaboration yet is the multi-sectoral participatory process for the Israel 2050 plan, which Heschel has spearheaded as part of the climate initiative. Inspired by the Paris Climate Accords, Heschel headed the 2016 Maof Seminar, which led to our recruiting relevant officials in the Israeli government and convincing them to champion the Israeli Climate Plan 2050, which includes a complete transition to renewable energies. After engaging with various stakeholders to join the process, we organized the largest climate convention in Israel’s history, with a separate event that included 11 roundtables, and that has laid the foundation for the 2050 plan.
The Heschel Center has succeeded in recruiting leading strategic partners in government, civil society and industry: five central government ministries (Energy, Transportation, Industry, Treasury, Environment), the OECD, the IDI (Israel Democracy Institute), and the Manufacturers Association of Israel. Through our work with key people in the government, we have convinced the government to be the lead partner, and to adopt the program as a government initiative, with all that entails. As part of our plan for a broad-based process, we have enlisted a wide range of supporters from civil society, academia and the commercial-industrial sector. Additionally, we have prepared a professional knowledge base and relevant materials that will serve the working groups in the multi-sectoral participatory process of fulfilling the Israel 2050 plan. We have also developed a methodology for locating and successfully utilizing experts from abroad who can share their experience and best practices from processes similar to those we are trying to promote.
Today, the Heschel Center is focusing on bringing the voices of the underserved – people with disabilities, youth at risk, the elderly, etc – to the 2050 planning process and ensuring that the plans are bettering their conditions.
In addition, the Heschel Center has launched its Renewable Energy Project, aiming to develop a plan for Israel to transform to a 100% renewable energy economy. The plan includes an important component of proving the economic case for a weak municipality to earn income by providing renewable energy for its residents.
Where we’ve been:
We have trained hundreds of entrepreneurial leaders and created effective networks of change agents amongst all Israelis (Jews and Arabs, secular and religious, center and periphery) in a broad range of fields. We have incubated and launched dozens of innovative social ventures in areas as diverse as renewable energy, local sustainability, and environmental justice.
After a period of challenge and transition, Heschel Center 2019 has an inspired new leadership, and an energetic staff made up of some of our veteran visionaries, along with new blood, who come with innovative skills and ideas to take the organization forward, and ensure our place as the premier institution promoting a broad based social, environmental and economic vision for Israel.
Where we’re going:
We seek to create alliances and financial support, both inside Israel and abroad, to put this vision of sustainability which we believe is the key to Israel’s future, squarely on the agenda of Israeli society and the Jewish people.
Sustainability represents the call for the “triple bottom line” of profits, people, and planet, which has been adopted in the realm of corporate social responsibility (CSR) worldwide. For too long, the environment has been a narrowly-defined niche issue, and the focus of much work has been reactive and confrontational in nature. We represent a broad, proactive agenda, integrating economic, political and social change, and training and partnering with key players in all those realms.
While there are any number of organizations in Israel devoted to advancing specific aspects of sustainability—environmental NGOs, social change organizations, economic institutions—only Heschel is doing the big-picture conceptualization of what defines sustainability in Israel and how to achieve it.
The Heschel Center is a registered non-profit (“amuta”) that depends on contributions to do the work that is so critical for Israel’s future. To donate click here.
Join us to help improve Israel’s present and ensure Israel’s future as a healthy, prosperous, just and democratic society for all.