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Strengthening local leadership in Israel at a critical time for cities

Mike Bloomberg attends announcement of New Mayor’s Program with Yossi Sagol and Tel Aviv University.
Tel Aviv University President Ariel Porat, Yossi Sagol and Michael R. Bloomberg
Bloomberg Cities Network

Ever since COVID-19 first took its grip on the globe, many of the world’s leaders have turned to Israel for guidance. That’s because the country—led in many cases by city-driven innovations—has been on the cutting edge of recovery from the start.

The pandemic was a watershed moment for a highly centralized country, where mayors have historically followed the national government’s lead. Their bold actions—whether building contract-tracing systems from scratch, setting up networks of young people to check on isolated seniors, or creating vaccination campaigns among hesitant communities—were sometimes taken in defiance of national guidance and, as a result, changed many perceptions of the role local leaders can play in addressing the nation’s toughest challenges.

“[Our mayors] helped us to understand what a municipality should be doing in a situation like this that no one has ever dealt with before,” says Edit Bar, who heads a section of the Israeli Ministry of the Interior dedicated to building capacity among local governments. Local leaders “know what their people need.”

Now, as a wave of terror attacks presents new challenges, Israeli mayors are poised to build on this momentum. This week, Bloomberg Philanthropies and The Sagol Family announced a new initiative to strengthen local leadership across Israel: The Bloomberg-Sagol Center for City Leadership at Tel Aviv University. “Local leaders are playing a critical role in responding,” Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and the 108th mayor of New York City said Sunday in Tel Aviv while announcing the new initiative. “This program will support them.”

“Central government doesn’t have an impact on our personal lives, where mayors do.”
— Moshe Zviran, faculty director of the new Bloomberg-Sagol Center for City Leadership

The effort, explains Sagol Family representative Yossi Sagol, is inspired by the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, an executive training program for city leaders that has already trained 196 mayors and 318 senior leaders from 25 countries over the past five years. “By adopting this program in Israel, we can make a real difference on the way local authorities are managed,” he says.

Article continues at the Bloomberg Cities Network