By Harry Rubenstein
March 13, 2005, Updated September 13, 2012

The contestants of ‘Seeking a Leader’ – the cash prize will not go towards lining anyone’s pockets, but rather towards supporting the social change project of the winning individual.For American audiences, reality television is synonymous with back stabbing, conniving and cutthroat behavior of contestants seeking to achieve a one million dollar prize (Survivor) or a coveted position in the Trump organization (The Apprentice).

Israel’s latest television offering introduces a paradigm shift in this genre: a social action aspect in which the prize benefits society, not the individual.

Seeking A Leader (Darush: Manig) possibly the most ‘real’ reality show ever made, is a unique Israeli invention where twelve experienced social activists compete for a prize of five million shekels ($1.25 million).

The cash prize, however, will not go towards lining anyone’s pockets, but rather towards supporting the social change project of the winning individual; in other words, the show’s reward is the chance for the winner to realize his or her vision for social change.

The prize money is donated by the Sakta Rashi Foundation, an Israeli non-profit organization dedicated to assisting the underprivileged, focusing on children and special-needs populations in the marginalized and underrepresented groups of Israeli society.

The foundation will also provide professional support and development assistance to the winner’s project.

Each of the candidates has experience in different fields, but the social projects they propose mostly include education, welfare and empowerment. Similar to the format of The Apprentice, each episode involves challenges to test the leadership skills of the candidates; but the similarity between the two shows ends there.

The contestants on Seeking A Leader won’t be coming up with marketing plans for new flavors of toothpaste or selling M&Ms on the street, but rather helping with a neighborhood garden or building a kindergarten in an underprivileged neighborhood. Each challenge will bring about beneficial results for the community involved.

At the end of each project, candidates will face the ‘Leadership Forum’ where they will face a panel of judges comprised of key figures from different areas of Israeli society. Chairman of Koor Industries Benny Gaon is Head of the Forum and each week luminary guests such as Former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau and Mayor of Netanya Miriam Fierberg will join him.

Seeking A Leader is a very unique program. This is the first time that the subject of a reality show is actually real and dealing with something important. We are very proud to offer this program and to broadcast it. It’s real reality television,” Moni Brosh, a spokesman for Tel Ad which producers of the show, told ISRAEL21c.

The 12 candidates (six females and six males) represent a unique array of different sectors of Israeli society. Their ages range from 23 to 51 and all have different professional backgrounds – from a 23-year-old mother of three to a 51-year-old advertising executive and from two ex-deputy mayors to a legal intern and a cable news writer. The one thing they do have in common is the desire to promote social change in Israel.

Tel Ad commissioned a poll by the Rotem Institute for Market Research to coincide with the premiere of the series. Over five hundred people were questioned about their feelings towards the country’s leadership past, present and future.

According to the results, 45 percent of those polled are disappointed with the Israeli leadership of recent years. Moreover, the poll showed that most Israelis expect new leadership to stem from social activism rather than the more institutionalized fields of politics, the military or business sectors.

So far, Seeking a Leader has been a moderate rating’s success, but “with this type of show, there is something else more important than ratings,” said Brosh. “It’s a risk to take. It’s not glamorous. You see the real life and many other broadcasters wouldn’t take the risk and responsibility that Tel Ad has taken.”

Whether the television show will give birth to a new generation of leadership or a future prime minister remains to be seen; but one thing is for sure, it can potentially send a powerful shockwave through the reality television genre.
The contestants are:

– Moriah Lapid, (23, Kiryat Arba) wishes to bridge the gap between the political right and the left as well as improve relations between secular and religious people.

– Iki Elenar (41, Tel Aviv) hopes to develop a project to advocate for civil marriages and same-sex marriages in Israel.

– Abir Kobati (29, Nazareth), Spokeswoman for the Mossawa Center, the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens of Israel) who is interested in promoting a project to initiate Arab women’s businesses.

– Yom Tov Moshe (51, Kibbutz Maagen Michael) seeks to implement the concept of maaser (tithe) wherein citizens will donate a portion of their income to the needy.

– Vadim Bluman (25, Jerusalem) wants to establish a center for support, assistance and counseling for children and youth in need from minority cultures in Israel.

– Meital Lahavi (44, Tel Aviv) intends to establish an organization to help communities and neighborhoods determine their own environments and improve their everyday lives.

– Yossi Ben David (35, Tiberias) wishes to develop a national network of centers for infants, toddlers and their parents. Ben David believes that all families are eligible for educational, social and cultural neighborhood family centers regardless of economic status.

– Ofer Orenstein (28, Netanya) wants to make universities free for all students and address the problem of high school dropouts.

– Meirav Ben Ari (29, Tel Aviv) hopes to help disadvantaged children in elementary and high schools break out of the cycle of poverty.

– Keren Netanzon (27, Haifa) wishes to empower neighborhood activists and have them in turn train and develop future leaders.

– Shai Ben Yaish (36, Sderot) seeks to establish neighborhood factories that will provide employment to local residents. Part of the profit will serve the community’s needs – whether its physical or environmental renovations, welfare to broken families or educational supplements for students.

– Shir Ophir (33, Tel Aviv) wants to begin a school for the art of life. The educational center will teach about the rights to a happy and full life and how to achieve personal success. Among subjects the center will address financial independence and teach families how to balance their budget and live well within their means.

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Jason Harris

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