I give to NIF because to me, the State of Israel is not a charity case. When I am called by mainstream Jewish establishments to "Support Israel!"... I really don't know what to picture. The same way that if someone were to tell me to "support America," I wouldn't know what to do. I certainly would not go out and buy a gas guzzler, or plant a bunch of trees on top of someone's home in the name of patriotism.
However, when NIF invites me to "support equality for women in Israel," I am able to envision myself discussing women's economic empowerment on the rooftop of the Aros el Bahr center for women in Jaffa with Executive Director Safa Younes-- who was recently honored at NIF's Guardian of Democracy Dinner in San Francisco (my hometown).
When I hear NIF ask me to "support the rights of refugees," I can easily conjure up an image of the relieved face of an Eritrean woman asylum seeker when her name is finally called to see a doctor, at the overcrowded waiting room at the Physicians for Human Rights Free Clinic in Tel Aviv-- where I volunteered last year through Tikkun Olam.
When I read editorials on the NIF website condemning the grave injustices being enacted by Knesset via the Prawer Plan in Bedouin areas of the Negev, I feel compelled to speak up on behalf of the Bedouin man I met this summer-- who, despite the scarce resources available to him, managed to run a summer camp for local children during Ramadan so the army would see there was still life in the village-- and refrain just a little longer from demolishing it.
These, among many others, are the reasons I give to NIF. For me, loving Israel is grounded in the compelling stories and memories I have from my various experiences there, and the longing to do my part to keep Israel a diverse and sacred place for Jews (of all denominations) and non-Jews alike.
Giving to NIF lets me know that I am supporting individuals and communities in Israel who truly need my help. And to me, that's what Zionism is all about-- carrying on the vision of my ancestors who toiled in sweat, blood, and tears so that Israel could be a light unto nations.