“My mother worked as a secretary in a law firm and later managed legal files,” she says. “She really wanted to be a lawyer and wanted to fulfill her dream through me. She said to me, ‘Any place you want to reach, dream and you’ll get there.’ And I definitely dreamed. My mother used to take me with her to court, and I remember looking at the judge with his robe and telling myself that one day I would be a lawyer too and stand in front of him and, equally important, I would have a successful career.”
So after graduating from Ben Zvi High School in Givatayim and completing her military service as a graphics designer, Dom studied law at the Israel Academic College in Ramat Gan and then earned an MA in business administration at the Ono Academic College.
At the age of 26, she opened her own law firm with a partner, handling personal and commercial cases. A year later she began her affair with the Histadrut Labor Federation, where she was promoted to a variety of key positions.
In 2011, she assumed her current role, CEO of the Amal educational network (which operates 120 educational institutions), where she has had some impressive achievements: She reduced the network’s NIS 17 million (about $4.5 million) deficit and increased the number of students eligible for a matriculation certificate (according to Education Ministry figures for 2014-2015, the interdisciplinary Amal Shevach Mofet School in Tel Aviv had a 100 percent eligibility for matriculation certificates for the second year in a row), not to mention the different prestigious prizes Amal students have won in a variety of technological competitions in Israel and abroad.
Her intensity and status have earned her the nickname “the bulldozer,” which is warmly embraced by Dom. “I hear it a lot and I think it’s wonderful. A bulldozer is taking the impossible and making it possible. My greatness is in taking my own idea, or someone else’s idea, and implementing it. It’s largely based on personal connections. I know how to connect people. I think that one of my best qualities is that people believe me.”
Between Apple and Google
She was born in Givatayim 44 years ago. At 29, she married criminal lawyer Gil Fidel and had two daughters with him (13-year-old Romy and eight-year-old Bar). The couple divorced in 2010, and four years later she married then-Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini, who was divorced with four adult children.
Today, Eini serves as chairman of the Israel Football Association and owns a stake in the Oshrad natural gas company. They live “idyllically,” Dom says, with her two daughters at the Neve Gan neighborhood in Ramat Hasharon.
Dom’s relationship with the Histadrut began before her relationship with Eini, and at first, she saw it as something to do on the side. “I was 27 and I wanted to improve my financial situation. I began looking for a side job in addition to my law firm. I ran across an ad for an advisor at the Histadrut and applied. I was interviewed by Ofer, who was head of the State Employees Union, and immediately realized that he was a person who really cared about people in society and the injustices they suffer. I felt a strong connection to those values. When he offered me a job as his personal advisor, I felt I couldn’t say no, and it eventually became my full-time job.”
Four years after serving as advisor, Dom was promoted to the position of chief of staff of the professional union’s head. In 2011, she was appointed CEO of the Amal network, the first woman in that position since the network’s establishment in 1928.
The appointment was met with a lot of criticism because of your relationship with Eini.
“I felt it was more difficult for people to accept me in this position because I am a woman. My feeling was that if a man with my background and experienced had received the position, it would have been taken for granted.
“It’s important to stress that at the time of the appointment, Ofer and I weren’t even a couple yet. And the most important thing is what happens after the appointment. An unsuitable person can’t go on. What matters is the end result.”
In any event, she received a prestigious and desirable job, and definitely not an easy one. Dom had to deal not only with a huge budgetary deficit, but with the negative reputation of the network, which many people see as vocational schools for weak populations, which admit students who dropped out of other schools.
“When I arrived at the network, I knew there were two things I had to do,” she says, “to balance the budget and to change the image. For that purpose, I had to generate added value for the network, both in order to positively change the essence of the school, and in order to convince companies in the industry invest in us and collaborate with us.
“My vision came from my personal life. A day after completing my matriculation exams, I went to the beach and forgot everything I had learned. I felt that in the world we live in today, it’s not enough to only teach theories. The important thing in life is the modern labor market, and students must receive practical tools that will help them in life: They have to be verbal, speak English at a high level, know how to make a presentation, achieve technological thinking.
“Today we have comprehensive schools with high-level theoretical courses, as well as cyber studies, biotechnology, robotics, software engineering, art, product design, communications, and more. Each student selects the field he is interested in, and alongside the theoretical studies he gains practical experience as well. Fortunately, I succeeded in creating a new reputation for the network, as well as initiating collaborations with companies like Google, Apple, Teva, MIT and the Peres Peace Center, which believed in our vision and increased our budget.”
How is all this reflected in the lesson plan?
“We don’t teach in the traditional manner, in which the teacher stands in the classroom and lectures and the students write. In chemistry class, for example, the students perform projects together with hospitals, meet with doctors who explain the material in a more interesting way and they conduct research. In the new media course, the students meet with journalists, with marketing people, and learn how to edit films. We put a great emphasis on practice. We want the studies to be as similar to real life as possible. The students work as a team.”
And how do they study literature and history?
“I’ll give you an example. Last year, students from the Amal Shevach Mofet School in Tel Aviv developed a great application called Cell Aviv, which offers tourists and locals routes and things to do at the Sarona compound, which are accessible to people with special needs as well. While developing the app, they learned about Sarona’s history and the Templar period in Israel in a fascinating and experiential way.
“As I said, we find it very important to encourage our students to learn English, so we have a joint initiative with the US Embassy for Jewish and Arab students. As part of the initiative, the students work on projects in different fields, and in the end they hold a major debate according to the United Nations model, in which every group presents its project in English to an audience. That way, we both contribute to coexistence and enrich their language.”
This means that you need unusual teachers too.
“That’s very true. Our teachers are also mentors. They know how to teach interdisciplinary professions and can teach the students how to market themselves and raise their self-confidence. For that purpose, our teachers have undergone training, and we’ve recruited many teachers from the high-tech industry as well.”
What’s the boy-girl ratio?
“Fifty-fifty. But here, unlike other schools, there’s a very high percentage of girls in the field of science. It was very important for me to create this change. We began a program called ‘Girls to Science’ for girls in the seventh grade and higher.”
For girls only?
“No. The girls study all the scientific disciplines with the boys, but there are tours and empowerment programs that are exclusively for girls. When I took on the position, we conducted research and found out that the number of women in scientific professions is very low. We realized that the problem begins from an early age and detected several reasons for that. It begins with the teachers’ attitude towards girls. If a student wants to go down from an advanced mathematics class to an easier class, the teachers won’t try to stop her. But if it’s a boy, on their hand, they’ll try to persuade him. Boys tend to be more dominant in class and interrupt others, and the teachers allow it.
“In addition, we changed the gender representations in the schools’ textbooks. When physics questions are presented, for example, it now says female scientist instead of male scientist and female doctor instead of male doctor.”
‘Give it your 100 percent’
The entrepreneurship centers she developed are the highlight of Dom’s work and her source of pride. There are currently four centers (in Safed, Hadera, Be’er Sheva and Tel Aviv) and more are planned.
“These are modern entrepreneurship centers, which are built like the Google offices,” she says enthusiastically. “They are equipped with the finest technology, and the students establish business companies there, meet with investors, visit plants and different companies in industrial fields and develop initiatives. The main idea is that through the tools we give the students, they create tools that can help the community.”
Give me an example.
“One of the many initiatives which have been developed by our students and won prizes is Sea U, an app which incorporates everything sea lovers need and presents information from different beaches, such as temperatures, crowdedness, jellyfish, etc. Another example is a special cane for the blind, which offers more efficient navigation, panic buttons and voice warning in case of a fall or if the cane is lost. There’s also an inflatable belt which prevents injuries for elderly people, or a system for setting wheelchairs in motion through voice control.”
Where do your daughters study?
“Bar, my little one, is still in elementary school. Romy, who is going to seventh grade next year, began studying at the Lady David School in Tel Aviv, which belongs to the Amal network. Our neighborhood is a 10-minute walk from the school, and all her friends go there. She would have gone there in any case.”
“I say ‘well done’ and praise them for their excellent achievement. I’ve come a long way over they years. I’ve worked a lot on myself. Today I educate both my daughters and my students that the most important thing is giving it your 100 percent, not necessarily receiving a grade of 100 percent.”