As you'll read in this edition of NIF News, it was a challenging couple of weeks for the NIF family – and the issues we care so passionately about – in Jerusalem.
First, the Minister of Transportation once again decided to postpone his decision on whether or not to order the desegregation of city buses in which women are forced to go to the back of the bus. NIF and Kolech, our lead-grantee on the issue, turned up the heat by taking out transit ads on buses in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods alerting women to the existence of a hotline for anonymously reporting instances of abuse and discrimination.
Next, in two separate incidents, police in Jerusalem detained leaders of major NIF-supported organizations.
On January 5th Anat Hoffman, leader of the Israel Religious Action Center, was interrogated and threatened with felony charges. Her crime? Leading a group of women wearing tallit in prayer at the Kotel (Western Wall).
This past Friday, Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), was arrested at a weekly demonstration in East Jerusalem against Israeli expropriation of Palestinian property in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood for use by religio-nationalist Jewish settlers. ACRI didn't organize this peaceful vigil, but it has previously sent observers to make sure that the rights of the protesters are upheld. That was what Hagai was doing when he and sixteen others were arrested and held in the jail in the Russian Compound for thirty-six hours. When the case finally went before a judge, it was thrown out. The judge, finding no merit in the police's allegations, dismissed all charges and ordered them released immediately.
So what is going on in Jerusalem?
There appears to be great and growing sensitivity, on the part of the authorities, around protests that challenge the increasing power of Israel's "religious right" in Jerusalem. The NIF family of organizations is not only leading the charge to secure an Israel of equality and justice for all of its people; we are also actively responding to this latest round of intimidation, pooling resources and coordinating to make sure that the voices of those who remind us of the rights of women, Palestinians and free speech are not silenced.
To do this, NIF – and Jerusalem – need you to make your voice heard.
Here's what you can do to help:
Click here to send an email to Transportation Minister Katz, telling him that women will not go to the back of the bus. Already, hundreds of people have contacted the Minister. Please join their numbers today!
This newspaper story chronicles Hagai's arrest, and ran in several American papers. Write a letter to the editor and make clear our belief that Israel must stand for freedom of speech and conscience.
And if all of this leaves you longing for a way to talk about Israel, human rights, peace and democracy, and to connect with others who care about and support Israel -- and the progressive, democratic and Jewish values upon which it was founded -- the way that you do, please join us in person or online for our upcoming Town Hall & Webcast.