Take a look at our November newsletter, with a guest post from our past president, news about pressing work in shared society and more. Read Now
As we lend moral support and prayers to our friends in Israel, we and our partner, New Israel Fund, are also responding with action. Read More
With a guest post from an NIFC Board member, and news on Israeli reactions to recent violence, this month’s newsletter is a must-read. Learn More
We’re thrilled to launch our 2015 Annual Shira Herzog Symposium with Aluf Benn, Ronit Heyd and Jonathan Kay. Learn More
Reflecting on shared society and NIFC’s efforts to bolster exclusivity, June’s newsletter features a guest post from our President Joan Garson. Read More
What does 30 years of activism look like?
What’s behind the Ethiopian-Israeli protests and promoting Arab in the public sphere?
Read it all here. Read the NIFC May newsletter.
Over the course of the year, the Shatil-coordinated Forum for Public Housing has been intensively lobbying politicians from across the political spectrum in an effort to ensure that public housing is a central component of the incoming government’s agenda.
This week those efforts started to pay off. The recently signed coalition agreements with the Mizrachi Shas and centrist Kulanu parties contained a clear commitment to build 700 public housing units, or designate a minimum of 5% of units to be built for public housing (whichever amount is greater).
Activists of the Public Housing Forum, trained by NIFC-funded Shatil, were in constant touch with key members of the Shas and Kulanu parties, and held several public events prior to the elections in order to highlight the need for any party claiming to represent social-welfare values to advance the issue of public housing.
“We welcome this development that finally there is an initiative to rehabilitate public housing” said Shatil policy expert Danny Gigi. “The coalition agreements providing for public housing are a direct result of our connection and advocacy work. It is clear that there is much work left to do, to make sure that these provisions are indeed implemented, and to add new measures, but this surely represents a big leap forward.”
A uniformed Ethiopian Israeli soldier walked alone in Tel Aviv. Without apparent cause, a police officer approached him – soon joined by another – and began to beat the soldier. The brutal attack was captured on video and soon released on social media. Demonstrations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, with violence instigated by a few protesters, erupted not just due to this single incident of police brutality, but as a reaction to decades of institutionalized racism and discrimination.
An appalling 65% of Ethiopian Israeli children live in poverty and 56% of the community receives help from the Ministry of Social Services. Ethiopian representation in higher learning is abysmally low. And unemployment in the Ethiopian sector is more than double the national average.
Despite much higher rates of military enlistment than the national average, Ethiopian Israelis are often held back by socioeconomic factors and racism. Ethiopian-Israeli soldiers make up 3% of the IDF but 13% of the IDF prison population. Their rates of dishonorable discharge are higher too – 22.8% for men and 10.6% for women, compared to the national averages of 16.5% and 7.5%. The prison sentences and discharges are generally related to charges of desertion, which has more to do with poverty than their willingness to fight (the army’s meager $100 a month isn’t enough to support their families so many Ethiopian-Israeli soldiers try to work on the side during their service and can’t make it back to the base on time).
Tebeka, the first Ethiopian legal advocacy group, and a partner of NIFC, was seed-funded by the New Israel Fund many years ago. The organization, whose name means “advocate for justice” in Amharic, has been involved in these issues for years. During the recent protests, Tebeka opened a hotline for Ethiopian Israelis to report incidents of police violence and to help jailed protesters secure legal representation.
Representatives of Tebeka said, “We are witnesses to another case of police violence against Ethiopian Israelis and this time we are talking about a soldier. Until the Israeli police deal harshly with the guilty policemen and send a clear message that the task of the police is to protect citizens and not to attack them for no fault of their own, no branding campaign will succeed in removing the stains of injustice from their uniforms.”
Over the past year, hate crimes – including acts of violence – and intimidation have been on the rise. In this increasingly tense atmosphere, many Arabic speakers, afraid of being harassed, think twice before speaking Arabic in public.
But on Monday, a group of Jewish high schoolers worked to change that. As part of an effort to reinforce the city’s multi-cultural reality, the Jewish teens boarded Jerusalem’s light rail proudly – and loudly – speaking Arabic. The effort was spearheaded by the NIF-convened Tag Meir coalition together with Matach – the Center for Educational Technology (CET).
Around 150 students, teachers, and supporters boarded the light rail at 11 AM at the Jerusalem Municipality station, and rode it to the Mount Herzl station. During the journey they spoke only Arabic to one another and to the other passengers. The students also handed out Arabic phrasebooks and links to a website with different greetings in Arabic.
Among the participants was Druze college student and IDF veteran Tommy Hasson, who, earlier this year, was attacked by a gang of ten Jews in Jerusalem in January for speaking Arabic.
At the Mount Herzl station the group alighted and held a ceremony that included the singing of the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah.
Myriam Darmoni, Director of Civics and Shared Life Education at the CET, said, “Education is the answer to the worrying and growing phenomenon of hate crimes. Ahead of Lag B’Omer, we decided to light the fire of hope on the Jerusalem light rail. Together with teachers and students, we’ll help bring hearts together.”
Merav Livneh-Dill, NIFC-funded Shatil’s Pluralism coordinator and member of the Tag Meir steering committee, stated that the event was designed to show that “We dare not leave Jerusalem’s public space in the hands of extremists. It was time for us to make our voices heard and to reclaim this space.”
Moving forward, Tag Meir is working to ensure that the annual Jerusalem Day Flag March avoids the Muslim Quarter in the Old City, so as to prevent the recurring spectacle of young men chanting anti-Muslim slogans in the wee hours of the morning in an Arab neighborhood.