Be’er-Sheva, Israel is part of a democratic, pluralistic society with both a strong social-welfare system (to care for the weak) and an open, capitalistic economy (where the strong may do what they can to succeed). We have freely-elected public representatives, a legal/justice system, civil rights and civic duties. Individuals enjoy many freedoms: of religion, of expression, of self-determination, of privacy, gender equality, and more. Citizens have the right: to live in accordance with their personal beliefs, to get an education, to work, to build families and homes, to have a social life, to enjoy local and international culture–and they also have the right to lodge complaints or to take legally-sanctioned action when they feel something is amiss or can be improved. In fact, Be’er-Sheva has a very active ‘third sector’ comprised of civilian volunteers and activists.
Local leadership and good citizenship
The Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev is located on the 9th floor of the Train-Station Tower at 10 Ben-Tsevi St. and runs numerous leadership training programs and seeks to promote a thriving, pluralistic civil society – 08-6201444.
Courses in mediation, arbitration and conflict management & resolution are often given by various bodies in Be’er-Sheva. BGU now has a special, accredited M.A. Program in Conflict Management & Resolution. Some semesters, B.A. courses are given in the Dept. of Social Work on social justice/social welfare – 08-6472318/332.
The “Bar Si’ah” (lit., worth talking about) A.D.R. Mediation Center, located at 4 Rambam St. in the Old City, houses the Mediation Forum, currently chaired by lawyer & certified mediator Amir Ziman, where A.D.R. (i.e., alternative dispute resolution ) mediation is taught – 08-6650110/12.
CEPAC – Citizens’ Empowerment Public Action Campaign, to safeguard democratic values and pluralism in Israel – CEPAC.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Consumer and/or public complaints
The Be’er-Sheva Municipality has a 24/7 complaints hotline (dial 106) where all manner of complaints regarding problems within the city limits or with municipal services may and should be reported. For example, if a citizen sees a dangerous things in the public domain, such as: a burst water pipe; a large pothole in a street; a dog that looks sick/dangerous loosed without a muzzle; or a downed electric line; a rat infestation; or something blocking passage on a public sidewalk (forcing pedestrians into a trafficked street); a fetid, stagnant pool of water (where insects may breed); or an abandoned car–a good Samaritan will dial 106 and report it and many other such things.
Complaints about defective products, misleading consumer information, public health or safety risks, etc. may be submitted to the Israel Authority for Consumer Protection and Better Business Practices – email@example.com, or locally:
To lodge a citizen’s complaint about public health risks (e.g., unhealthy products or conditions), turn to the Israel Ministry of Health, Be’er-Sheva Office for Public Complaints, located in the Government Mall, main entrance, building A, Sun.-Thurs. 8:00-15:00, 08-6263511.
To lodge complaints regarding public or industrial safety (e.g., dangerous products or conditions), turn to the Institute for Safety and Hygiene, located in the Central Train-Station Tower – 08-6276389. Be’er-Sheva needs more trained, professional safety inspectors; accredited courses are given on the Open University Campus at Bet Yatsiv in the Old City – 08-6273828.
Complaints about environmental hazards and/or local eye-sores may also be reported to the local community TV cable channel 98 “Mi-Kan” (lit., from here), based at the Youth Center in the Old City – http://www.98tv.co.il or to the local weekend Hebrew news magazines (published every Thursday afternoon), each of which has a column dedicated to spotlighting municipal foibles and faults, such as the “Sheva,” “Yedi’ot ha-Negev“ or “Zeman ha-Negev.“
In cases of complaints having national importance, the Be’er-Sheva Office of the State Comptroller and Ombudsman takes civilian complaints about improper or harmful acts committed by public bodies or government agencies and their representatives. This Office is located at 8B Henrietta Szold St. in the “Rassco City” complex – 08-6232777, http://www.nezivut.mevaker.gov.il.
In regard to problems involving the Israeli military complex, the I.D.F. Southern Command Headquarters in Be’er-Sheva has designated a special phone number, available for civilian complaints and suggestions (24/7) – 08-9906565.
Legal matters and legal aid
The local branch of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel has an open line for the general public, Sun.-Thurs. – 08-6521218 and 08-6480108.
The Israel Ministry of Justice has a local Legal Aid Office located in the No’am Building at 33 Shazar Blvd. in the Gimel neighborhood – 08-6404526/7/or 8. There’s also an office of public defenders at this address – 08-6404500.
The Center for Legal Aid to New Immigrants and the Israel Religious Action Center for Jewish Pluralism are both situated in the Levin Community Center at 3 Eliyahu ha-Navi St. in the Daled neighborhood – 08-6492193, as is the Association for Residential Culture (“Tarbut ha-Diyyur”) that helps residents’ committees to resolve ‘in-house’ problems in apartment buildings – 08-9103830.
“Adallah” and “Ba-Makom” civil rights associations and other group for Bedouin rights meet regularly at the Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev in the Train-Station Tower – 08-6201444.
Be’er-Sheva is an exemplary leader in Israeli voluntarism and civic action, in which volunteer organizations (NPOs) are coordinated by the umbrella organization “Re’em,” situated on the second floor of “Yad la-Banim” (located near City Hall), Sun.-Thurs. 9:00-12:00. Chairperson: Shoshana Agajany; Acting Director: Alin Haviv, 08-6416619, 054-4214251. Those trying to get an idea of where they might like to volunteer may go to Re’em and learn about the many options.
In fact, in 2016, following the paradigmatic example established in Be’er-Sheva by the “Shlomit” Association for Alternative National and Civil Service (founded 1993) in conjunction with the Israel gay youth organization “IGY” (founded 2001)–a first support team and commune was established up North in Afula to help homosexual youths by providing guided education and activities.
The Civilian Guard (“Mishmar Ezrahi”) trains and certifies volunteers (18-65) to deal with traffic infractions & accidents, terrorism, and other security matters in the city. The headquarters are located at 63 ha-Avot St. in the Old City – 08-6274347; Raz Shwimmer – 050-6277797.
The Be’er-Sheva soup kitchen “Be’er-Sova” (lit., the well of sufficient sustenance, founded 2000) that provides free, hot cooked meals to ca.100 of the City’s indigent population each day and distributes “meals-on-wheels” to shut-ins. The food is served at located in the Old City at 58 Morde ha-Geta’ot St. – Restaurant: 08-6233355; Office: 08-6412544. Donations of fresh food, contributions of funding, and hours of voluntary service are always appreciated.
The voluntary NPO, “Hesed Lema’an Ehay ve-Re’ay” (lit., benevolence towards brothers and friends, founded 2006) supplies hundreds of food packages, hot meals and household equipment to over 700 needy persons. More volunteers and donations of food donations money are needed to meet the evergrowing demand. Contact – former Be’er-Sheva Councilman Yakov Ohayon (b.1986-) at: https://twitter.com/OhayonYakov.
The Lions Club “Achva ba-Negev” (lit., brotherhood in the Negev), that engages in voluntary social action, meets at the “Avot ba-Negev” Elder Hostel at 12 Alfasi St. in Yud Aleph – President Emily Burstein 054-4818903; Secretary Dorit Vartsman 050-2974009.