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Mayors' Forum

In recognizing the enormous impact Mayors, the elected heads of municipal councils, have on urban planning, MERCHAV started the Mayors’ Forum in 2010. We have since invested a very significant portion of our activity in these workshops helping elected officials understand the fundamental principles and opportunities of urbanism.


The Mayors’ Forum is a 3-day workshop run by experts from MERCHAV, in which between 6-10 mayors participate. Participation in the Mayors’ Forum is subsidized by the Ministry of Environmental Protection. Importantly, it is held in a small hotel in Haifa so that the Mayors are in a “safe space,” disconnected from both their busy daily schedules as well as from scrutiny by the press. (We encourage them to switch their phones off between breakfast, lunch, and dinner!).

The workshops include professional lectures adapted to the challenges of the participating municipalities. Each Mayor is expected to present an existing urban challenge in his/her city. The MERCHAV panel of experts are given the opportunity to study the challenges in advance prior to the workshop in order to prepare in-depth, appropriate, and concrete responses.

During the workshop, the Mayors and the experts discuss different strategies, the use the MERCHAV planning tools and suggest solutions to achieve the urban objectives.

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In selecting the candidates for each Mayors’ Forum, an emphasis is made on including different communities in Israel, encouraging collaboration between colleagues and building a network of decision makers and professionals.

At the conclusion of the 3-day retreat a questionnaire is distributed to all participants to help MERHAV continually improve the workshops. Feedback has shown a remarkable level of satisfaction and many Mayors explicitly recommend their colleagues to take part in future workshops. The structure of the workshops, the use of familiar and contemporary challenges in each town, the intimate and non-judgmental environment and the detachment from their day-to-day work, are noted repeatedly by participants as critical to the success of the workshops. Most participants viewed the content of the workshop as relevant, timely and important for their work. Half the Mayors who have participated indicated that the workshops led to significant changes in their understanding of their role as advocates for change in the field of urban planning: “The professionals are not exclusively responsible for urban planning.” As elected officials they need to define the desired goals, objectives and quality of the urban environment.

One of the principal recommendations has been to to expand the target audience to other stakeholders within the municipalities. MERCHAV hopes to address this challenge in the future.

An evaluation of the Mayors’ Forum has also shown the remarkable impact they have had on decision making and the understanding and appreciation of urbanism.

*The study is based on data collected during the months of August-December 2017.

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