Introducing Ben Murane, Executive Director
I am honoured to be the new Executive Director of the New Israel Fund of Canada.
NIFC has an exciting history of creating positive change in Israel and here in Canada. After just one month on the job, I am inspired by the Israelis we’ve supported for over 30 years, and by the impact they’ve had on Israeli society.
And this year is no exception. We funded 16 incredible projects—powered by nearly 1,000 donations from people like you. What did you help accomplish this year? Here are just 10 of our top achievements in 2017:
1. Standing up for equality—even on TV. In recent years, ultra-nationalist and ultra-religious sectors of Israeli society have waged a culture war against Israel’s founding values as a liberal democracy—against the idea that non-orthodox or non-Jewish citizens are equal citizens. When NIFC’s flagship partner, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), aired a public service announcement calling for equality for all Israelis, the advertising authority banned it for being “controversial.” ACRI succeeded in overturning the move, protecting freedom of expression and preventing politically-motivated public censorship. [Read more here.]
2. Protecting the rights of women to a rightful divorce. In March this year, NIFC’s Orthodox feminist partner, Mavoi Satum, appealed to the Supreme Court to uphold a woman’s divorce from a man in a coma—and won! Additionally, Mavoi Satum won a High Court of Justice landmark ruling that now allows women to serve on state rabbinic courts. [Read more here.]
3. Standing up for humane treatment of detainees. This year, ACRI won a petition before the Supreme Court requiring the state to improve unbearable conditions at the Holot detention centre. The court ruled that the state must protect the rights to privacy and dignity of all those in the facility, such as reducing the number of detainees in each room from ten to six, and permitting detainees to bring their personal belongings. This small but symbolic victory sets an important precedent for the treatment of those who’ve fled violence to safety in Israel. [Read more here.]
4. Supporting human rights in the occupied territories. When the Sadeq family was verbally attacked by nearby settlers, preventing them from harvesting their almond crop, a lawyer from the newly-founded human rights legal aid group Haqel mobilized to their defense. Through Haqel’s legal defense, the Sadeq family was one among many others allowed to complete their almond harvest under the protection of the IDF. [Read more here.]
5. Teaching Israeli leaders how to fight racism.This year, NIFC supported the second cohort of Shatil’s Leadership for Combating Racism Organized by the New Israel Fund’s own action department, this course for senior community leaders draws on participants’ own experiences of prejudice and discrimination to educate each other. This year’s participants represented every sector of Israeli society—such as ultra-orthodox, Palestinian, secular members—and included a deputy mayor of Jerusalem. [Read more here.]
6. Fighting extremism from within the Orthodox community. NIFC’s partner Ne’emanei Torah V’Avodah (NTA) is strengthening the values of religious tolerance and openness in Israel’s public religious schools, acting from within the Orthodox community to preserve a moderate religious voice. This year, dozens of new communities have joined NTA’s campaign to monitor schools for extremist dogmas. With their intervention, extremist ideas are exposed and countered before students can carry anti-democratic attitudes into their adult lives.
7. Housing the poorest and most disadvantaged. After years of intensive efforts by the Shatil Public Housing Forum, the Israeli government revealed an unprecedented one billion shekel plan to invest in public housing, dedicating at least 800 apartments to the project, and an additional 2,100 affordable rental units for working to middle class families. This is an incredible, historic achievement for poor and disadvantaged Israelis.
8. Protecting refugees from xenophobia. NIFC provided an emergency fund to ASSAF, the Aid Organization for Refugees in Israel, whose staff members were targeted by a new anti-refugee tax law aimed at pressuring asylum seekers to self-deport. Together with Canadians for Helping Asylum Seekers in Israel (CHAI), we provided emergency support to these African staff members and community leaders on the front lines of care for their community.
9. Using art as a tool for freedom. As part of the Freedom of Assembly Forum, Shatil, together with ACRI, trained African asylum seekers imprisoned in Holot to use photography as a protest tool—exposing the conditions to the public when journalists and others are forbidden to enter the facility. [Read more here.]
10. Inclusion of Arab citizens in Israeli culture. Tourism opportunities and public services are chronically under-funded in Israel’s Arab communities, with government resources favoring Jewish cities and neighborhoods. NIFC’s partner Sikkuy promotes the inclusion of Israel’s Arab citizens in everyday life by organizing joint tourism and cultural exchanges in Israel’s north between neighboring Jewish and Palestinian communities. These rare opportunities to meet and explore other cultures build badly-needed shared economic ties between Jews and Arabs.
And there are so many more stories to share …
These accomplishments are only possible because of the generosity of hundreds of our supporters here in Canada. Together, we are working with Israelis to grow an Israel that exemplifies democracy, equality, pluralism, and shared society.
What will we accomplish together in 2018?