Out Loud

A Democracy, Not a Utopia

15 May 2014 By Hillit Zwick

It never ceases to amaze me how complicated it is to talk about Israel, how much courage it takes to enter a conversation about the country we all care so deeply about. Throughout my eight years at the New Israel Fund, I've found that these high-stake conversations contain and convey a combination of pride, longing, expectation, sometimes despair, sometimes disappointment, anticipation, naiveté, and promise. They are an ever-evolving part of defining who we are as individuals and as a community committed to an Israel that reflects our progressive values.

Having had the opportunity to work for the New Israel Fund both in Israel and in the US, and having taken part in many such private and public conversations, I've come to see NIF as a microcosm of the incredible potential that exists in Israel, the hope, hatikva.

For me, this hope comes directly from the committed, thoughtful, inspiring people I've met through the New Israel Fund, those brave souls who step up and take necessary risks to transform vision into a reality, and engage others—individuals and communities—along the way. These leaders--activists, journalists, philanthropists, politicians, lawyers, volunteers, and people from all walks of life-- are an integral part of what makes the New Israel Fund's work strengthening democracy, equality, and justice in Israel transformative.

Leadership can takes many forms, and I have had the privilege of working closely with a diverse group of people, who have had a profound impact on fostering a more democratic, more equal Israel. The unique partnership that exists across the oceans between Israelis committed to justice and equality in their country and all of us overseas, who are equally invested in Israel's future, is truly inspirational.

I'm thinking of NIF's Executive Director in Israel Rachel Liel, who speaks out for justice in Israel every time a "Price Tag" crime is committed; I'm thinking of Hassan Jabareen, founder and director of NIF grantee Adalah, who works tirelessly for the rights of Palestinian Israeli citizens; I'm thinking of Daphni Leef, one of the leaders of the social protest movement, who, in the summer of 2011 spurred a new movement for social equality; I'm thinking of the incredible generosity and commitment of NIF's Board of Directors and International Council, who travel across oceans and time-zones to understand, to learn, to give, and to share their wisdom; I'm thinking of all of you, who contribute, volunteer, read, comment, and participate.

Each one of us brings a different narrative, a different dream, into the mix. The New Israel Fund's commitment to democracy requires a kind of sensitivity, a generosity of spirit, and an ability to face and to accept differences in experience and narrative. The community of individuals who share this pluralistic approach -- all of us who are behind NIF -- also share a vision of society that can embrace a set of values, an array of values, not all of which will always sit well with everyone. Our vision is not a utopia, but rather a true democracy.

About the Author

Hillit Zwick

Hillit Zwick