Edan Ring: Helping Israelis see Arabs as people

Sikkuy
Social & Economic Justice

Meet four incredible individuals driving some of the New Israel Fund of Canada’s projects this year and blazing trails for inclusion, for equality, and for social change: Batya Kahana Dror, Edan Ring, Ghebrehiwot Tekle, and Nisreen Alyan. Click here to read part one of their stories.

 

Who is Edan Ring?

Like many Israeli Jews, as a child, Ring had almost no exposure to Arabs. He grew up in the suburban town of Ra’anana. “What Arabs do you see in Ra’anana? Construction workers, deliverymen, cleaners, fruit sellers,” he said.

Ring’grandparents had escaped Poland to Uruguay before World War II. His parents, a doctor and a math teacher, immigrated to Israel, and Ring grew up in a predominantly South American milieu. As soon as he learned to read, Ring devoured newspapers. In high school, he wrote for the school paper.

What’s inspired him?

In 2000, on a post-army trip to South America, Ring was powerfully influenced by the social change and political protest movements he encountered there. He studied History at Tel Aviv University, deepening his knowledge of social and political movements. He decided to pursue employment in the sphere of tikun olam (the Jewish concept of repairing the world), particularly on issues of discrimination against Arab citizens, minority and civil rights, and freedom of speech.

“Just because you were born to a family in Ra’anana or Tel Aviv and got to go to university, doesn’t mean you can ignore what happens in other areas”

He got hired as a media consultant at UNIK, a PR agency that works with human and civil rights NGOs. Through this work, he got to know Bedouins in the Negev and Palestinians in Silwan. He began to see Arab society “as it really is, and not like we know them through distorted media coverage or public discourse [in Israel],” he said. 

After six years, he realized he wanted to be on the front lines of social change. When Arab-Jewish advocacy organization Sikkuy asked him to head its new Arab Media Representation Project – a project he’d helped develop as a consultant – Ring readily accepted.

How has he changed Israeli society?

Ring’s work at Sikkuy involves monitoring Arab appearances in Hebrew media and cultivating a database of Arab experts. Journalists and cultural organizers in Israel can draw on the database, to increase Arab representation in media.

“Politicians’ concerted efforts to…discredit people who work for human and civil rights harm entire populations”

“[The work] opened my eyes to the responsibility of privilege, and of being part of the Jewish majority in Israel. Just because you were born to a family in Ra’anana or Tel Aviv and got to go to university, doesn’t mean you can ignore what happens in other areas.”

It can be challenging to be a human rights activist in Israel, Ring said. He’s sometimes wary of telling neighbours where he works. 

”Politicians’ concerted efforts to…discredit people who work for human and civil rights harm entire populations. Instead of seeing activists as patriots who want to improve this place, the right…try to turn us into enemies.”

Written and reported by Ruth Mason.

Meet three other trailblazers who are working to make Israel a better, fairer, more equal place. Click here to read part one of their stories.

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