Last week we launched an Urban95 programme in a new city in Israel – Tira, a predominantly Muslim city located 30km north-east of Tel Aviv, with population of 27,000. We were able to hold the launch meeting in person with Mayor Maamun Abd Elhai and other municipal officials.
After three years of successful work in Tel Aviv, we decided it was time to expand the Urban95 model to new cities in Israel. Given the country’s diversity, scaling requires adaptation to different populations and geographies with unique characteristics and challenges.
We decided to select one city with a large Arab population and one with a large Ultra-Orthodox population, as these are among the most vulnerable communities in the country. We have already held a virtual launch in Beit Shemesh, a city 20km west of Jerusalem where over half the 130,000 population are Ultra-Orthodox, with Mayor Dr Aliza Bloch.
A third city, in Israel’s periphery, will follow later in the year. We will invest deeply in these three “anchor cities” in the coming years, and connect each of them to three or four additional cities with similar characteristics, to reach a total of 15 cities across Israel including Tel Aviv.
In partnership with the ILGBC (Israeli Green Building Council), we chose Tira and Beit Shemesh based on criteria and a process defined by an inter-disciplinary steering committee including national government ministries, experts from the target populations, experts in early childhood and planning, and representatives from our other Urban95 programmes in Israel. We brought the call for proposals to the attention of every potentially suitable city, and held meetings with all that expressed interest.
The selection was made based on the cities’ political will, capacity and suitability as a model for other cities. The two chosen cities both have low socio-economic indicators and leaders with great ambition. They also have very young populations: children aged under 4 account for one in ten residents in Tira, and one in six in Beit Shemesh. We look forward to adapting Urban95 principles and knowledge to these new and diverse settings to fulfil our mission to give all their children a good start in life.