Everyone, in every society, has a deep need to be respected and not to be humiliated; to have their worth recognized and not underestimated, to be told something positive about themselves, and not to have their worth diminished. In Israel there appears to be agreement that human dignity is a value shared by everyone: human dignity, because every human being was created in the image of the deity; and human dignity as a human being, by virtue of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. But in today’s sad reality, instead of human dignity being a shared value, it is actually a damaged value, in almost all systems of relations in Israel: among youngsters and between men and women, adults and children, the native-born and immigrants, officers and soldiers, Jews and Arabs, public servants and citizens, and Israelis and foreign workers. Thus is generated the tension of human dignity: between the urgent need of each person to be respected as a human being and the reality, in which many ignore this need and even humiliate the other.
This book is an attempt to grapple with the state of human dignity in Israeli society, as a basic value that is incumbent on all Israelis but is not yet obligatory, and in its test in everyday behavior and in various relations in Israeli society.
The book raises a difficult question: Is it possible to generate change in the state of human dignity in Israel and is it possible to promote it, in practice, as a shared value of all Israelis and as everyday behavior?
The answer is that it is indeed possible to bring about a change, not by means of preaching, but rather by means of a continuous process of examining together our personal experience of human dignity, in the environment in which we live.
Sikkuy—The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel— and the Van Leer Jerusalem Organization initiated the preparation of this anthology. For several years Sikkuy has led a comprehensive program promoting human dignity as a continuous process. The Center for Tolerance Education is at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. The center’s activity focuses on the education system and encompasses hundreds of schools—state (Jewish), state (Arab), and state-religious —in both the center and the periphery of the country.