Meet the Mentor: Dr. Reuven Gal

Before Dr. Reuven Gal explains why he’s a mentor with Rothschild Caesarea Partnerships, it’s worth knowing that he’s also a senior researcher at the Samuel Neaman Institute for National Policy Research.  The Institute is involved in studying issues related to national policy, such as society, security and economics, the puzzle pieces which fit together to form national policy on the studied areas.  Among other things, Reuven is entrusted with integrating the ultra-Orthodox sector in Israeli society, and exploring issues of national robustness and the military-society relationship.

Reuven, that sounds interesting but can we have a bit more clarity?  Perhaps an example of what you’re currently doing?

Among other things, I focus on measuring national robustness: society’s ability to withstand pressures and crises.  Israeli society has to cope with a variety of tough situations in the social and security fields, which manifest as resistance or crises.  For example, during the second Intifada, I measured the behavior of Israeli society based on closely comparing to normative habits such as use of public transport, frequency of entertainment activities, or to what degree help hotlines were accessed.  After analyzing the data, I found interesting coefficients such as a temporary drop in use of public transport after a terror attack, which resumed some time later, until the next event.  Evaluating all the data showed how Israeli society acclimated itself to these “disruptions” in its life.  This indicates collective coping flexibility or, in other words, the ability to cope with the disruption without the system collapsing.  In terms of indices for national robustness, it points to a society that is indeed robust.

Fascinating!  So how did you get to the RCP mentoring program?

I first came across the Rothschild Ambassadors in 2009 when I was head of the National Civic Service administration.  I was invited to an event run by the Jerusalem Municipality and there, facing the stunning vistas of Jerusalem, the ambassadors presented a jointly initiated project for social community activism in Jerusalem.  I enjoyed it so much, and was so moved by it, that it left a strong impression.  I’m a big believer in the tremendous potential of Israel’s youth and young adults, and that’s what I’ve been involved in for years now.

One day Avner, manager of the mentoring program, called to say that he’s been following my work, and suggested I become a mentor.  I agreed on the spot, and we met that same day.  I’ve never formally held the title “mentor” but for my whole adult life, and even beforehand, that’s what I’ve done.  I was a Scouts counselor, an IDF commander, a lecturer and teacher in academia.

What makes Israeli youth and young adults so special?

There’s something generic, almost genetic, in our Israeli youth, which goes far beyond global social permutations.  There’s an interlinking between western values and youth exposed to all that the internet has to offer, on one hand, and the fact that this society is under constant existential threat, on the other.  The mix is polar yet coexistent: youth who have typically western creativity and avant-garde, together with strong commitment towards coping with, or trying to, resolve the threats.

Janusz Korczak is quoted as saying that one who is concerned with generations, educates people, but adapted to current times, I prefer, “One who is concerned with generations, develops people.”  As the IDF’s Chief Psychologist in my distant past, I had the opportunity to see up close the level of motivation, leadership and willingness to volunteer that’s inherent to our youth.

How do encounters with your mentee impact you?

I’ve learned about the wonderful journey undertaken by a young woman who needs to adapt her life from one framework of existence up until her adolescence, to a new reality as an immigrant to Israel.  It’s a tough, arduous journey, especially when part of her environ ent’s still “over there” and she’s already “here.”  Coping with this journey, without leaving “there” while being determined to carry on “here” intrigues me.  My mentee used to write up summaries of our meetings.  She did this on the organization’s formal letterhead, and in a formal manner.  But I was very moved when, on one occasion after the joint activity developed, the meeting summary was no longer on an official form but presented as a personal letter.  She noted how that meeting dealt with other issues of deeper content which went far beyond what was allowed for by the standard form.

And in summary, any advice you’d like to share?

Avoid haste, and be a “mentsch”…


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