The Role of the Family in Advancing Social Integration and Intergenerational Solidarity

UPF Austria - Vienna, May 14th 2013: Panel discussion in Vienna in cooperation with the Family Federation for World Peace on

Dr. Walter Baar, trend researcher and advisor to the Austrian parliament on family matters, talked about „The Role of the Family in Today’s Israel“, and shared his experiences which he made during a research trip to Israel last summer.

Ms. Eivina Ziziunaite, student from Lithuania and member of Youth UPF of Vienna, shared her thoughts about „Youth Perspectives on Intergenerational Solidarityand

Mag. Elisabeth Cook talked about “Parents’ Perspectives on intergenerational solidarity”.

First Dr. Baar talked about family structures in Israel. Israelis have 2.5 children per woman, Arabs 4 children, Palestinians 5 children, and Orthodox Jews around 10 children in average. He highlighted that everywhere you go you can see children, different to many countries in Europe. In this context it has to be mentioned that in the Middle East there is nothing more important than the family. People often don’t trust their neighbours, but they can trust their family. That’s one reason why families are so relevant in Israel. Also the influence of religion is strong. So for example the Jewish Orthodox men often don’t work, but stay at home and put all their energy into educating their children.

Moreover life quality is high and Israel is a fruitful land. However, there is need for importing goods, as the population is growing from year by year. Furthermore he mentioned that Ethiopian Jews are a large group of immigrants and for them it is quite hard to integrate, as they have to be transformed from a very simple society to our modern world. That is to some extent happening when they have to go the Israeli army   women as well. By this means Israelis are able to give them an education and speed up the integration.

Another interesting thing Dr. Baar was able to observe was that if someone emigrates usually the whole family joins as well. Summing up he said that in Israel the most important things are family, religion and having many children.

Secondly, Ms. Eivina Ziziunaite, representative of Youth UPF, shared her thoughts on intergenerational solidarity. She started with the quote “you can’t choose your parents, but you can choose your friends”.  She explained then that what everybody can do is to choose the attitude towards one’ own parents and decide on the relationship we want to have with them. She highlighted that is always important to treat others the way we want to be treated.

Another observation of her was that we need to keep in mind that not what people do to us is important, but the way we respond to them. This also refers to the relationship between parents and children. As a child often we do not understand our parents’ decisions, for example why we have to attend family meetings and celebrations, and we cannot appreciate them, but when we grow older we can see the value in it. Once we moved away from our parents these are the very things we miss. It is really up to us how we treat our siblings and parents.

According to her experience high quality communication is the key to solve problems between the generations, even getting the parents’ generation to use modern technology such as facebook, skype or similar means.

As the last speaker Mrs. Elisabeth Cook from the “Family Federation for World Peace”, talked about “Family – the Place of Socialization and Social Integration”.  First, she depicted why the family is the best place for socialization by explaining the circle of love that flows from the parents to the children and vice versa. Children find their identity by being loved and accepted by their parents. By going through the four realms of love relationships, the young generation can develop stability in character and they can inherit all of their parents’ achievements, most important of all, their parents’ heart. In this way social integration can be achieved most effectively.

Secondly, Mrs. Cook pointed out that in today’s societies we can only see a broken circle of love flowing between parents and children, caused by the insufficient ability of the parents to love unconditionally. The results can be seen in the separation between husband and wife (high divorce rate), the miscommunication between parents & children and the mistrust between the generations.

Thirdly, Mrs Cook mentioned that a solution can only be found through a fundamental improvement of character and that the “Family Federation’s” goal is to support people in building stable and loving families by giving new insights in the central role the family plays in building peace on every level.

After the presentations a lively discussion with many questions from the audience concluded the panel discussion. People were most interested in the Israelis’ family models.

Attendees were able to ask further questions to the panellists during the buffet time.

Marlies Haider, Youth-UPF Vienna