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.
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!
Kicking racism out of soccer, day care reform after the death of 5 asylum seeker children, and public housing on the agenda. Read more in our April newsletter.
From this side of the ocean, many of us watched the Israeli elections closely and are still settling into the results.
Like you, we are following post-election analysis, commentary and editorials about what this means for Israelis. With this in mind, we felt it important to share a few words from our colleagues and partners in Israel:
Israel needs more activists like Hannah Kehat! Check out recent articles from our recent events with the Israeli feminist pioneer. Read More