In 2015, New Israel Fund of Canada celebrates 30 years of activism in Israel. In the same period that we look ahead to the next 30 years, I’ve been engaged in describing what sets NIFC apart.
This year is our opportunity to share with you the story of New Israel Fund of Canada and, more broadly, the story of activism. What does it take to improve lives? To transform society?
New Israel Fund of Canada asks that question every day and has done so on behalf of all Israeli citizens for the past 30 years. NIFC, along with its partner New Israel Fund, has partnered with over 850 grassroots organizations and contributed over $250 million towards transforming Israeli society since 1985.
And if you look across all 850 organizations, all 30 years, you find one unifying message that describes NIFC very clearly: NIFC works for the equality of every citizen in Israel. Equal access to health care, equal access to higher education, an equal shot at achieving their own potentials.
But equality takes on different forms for different communities, especially in Israel.
**Today in Israel, if you want to get married, you must get married under the laws of Orthodox Judaism – you have to prove that your parents are Jewish, you have to agree to the terms of a divorce which can only take place if the husband approves of it. For secular Jews, equality means the right to marry anyone they choose, in any way they choose to do it. What has NIFC done to address this? NIFC has built leaders in the Orthodox community that call for women’s equality in the public and legislative sphere.
**Despite universal health care in Israel, an Arab-Israeli child has access to significantly less medical attention than a Jewish-Israeli child the same age. For Israel’s poorest, equality means equal access to emergency rooms and infant care and life-saving prescriptions. NIFC has provided emergency healthcare to Israelis on the periphery. We also help NGOs organize and strengthen themselves to better serve the people that they represent in the public arena.
**In Israel, a woman riding a public bus is pressured to sit at the back of that bus so as not to offend ultra-Orthodox men who may feel embarrassed at the sight of a woman sitting alongside them. For women, equality means sitting anywhere on the bus, not just in the back. NIFC has pioneered funding and support for the women who now lead Israel’s greatest women’s organizations. They have blazed the trail for the next generation of women who challenge the Ultra-Orthodox claim on their lives and bodies.
New Israel Fund Canada approaches equality the way that grassroots activists do. Block by block and village by village, we partner with organizations – often quite small ones – that have first-hand understanding of barriers to equality and the tools to address them. NIFC works at a very human scale. And because we have been around for so long, our projects have touched nearly every community across Israel – Haredi families, Bedouin tribes, working families in Tel Aviv, and farmers in the Galilee.
We are singularly effective in these two ways: the sheer extent of our reach AND the human scale approach to equality.
This is activism that works. It is activism grounded in Israeli experience rather than coming from the outside. Only a fierce belief in Israel’s future can fuel 30 years of NIFC’s work. Only the continued support of our donors makes that possible. Thank you!