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  • The Race Against Racism

    20 March 2014

    Racism in Israel today is a pernicious and dangerous problem. The good news is that Israelis, just like Americans, are standing up to do something about it.

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  • The Race of Victimhood and Incitement

    08 March 2013

    "The Race of Victimhood and Incitement"

    Thoughts for International Women’s Day from MK Merav Michaeli

    8 March 2013

    In honor of International Women’s Day, here is the inaugural speech of Member of Knesset Merav Michaeli (Labor) subtitled in English.  NIF is a non-partisan organization with no formal connection to Ms. Michaeli, but we believe the themes of her speech should resonate today – for women, for minorities, but most important, for the future of Israel as a shared and responsible society.


  • The Rat Race And The March Of Folly

    29 July 2011

    ShlomoSwirskiThe wave of protests that are splashing over Israel represent, first and foremost, the middle class' recognition – at long last – that it is powerless to hold its own in the mad competition that has been forced upon it: military service involving the loss of three years of income, college studies, the purchase of a decent condominium, the high cost of raising children, and the high cost of basic foods. The mad competition, in turn, is the product of the increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of the few – the top ten percent of income earners, and among them, the top one percent and the top .1%. The increasing wealth at the top enables a small minority to determine new standards in every area of life: a one-family dwelling with a yard or a condo in a prestigious new city tower in Tel Aviv; kindergartens that purport to increase children's IQ, elementary schools for the gifted, arts and sciences high schools, private colleges, and luxury consumer goods.

    Young middle-class people, aware of the new standards, realize that this is a race they cannot win, a race that turns them into rats caught in a maze. In the 1960s, American students called it the rat race.

    For its part, the government of Israel washes its hands in the ideology of the free market and is willing, at most, to admit that there are a few "market failures." But ideology is a matter of geography, and in our case, the free market ideology stops at the border between Israel and the West Bank. On the other side of the Green Line, the government – like all recent governments of Israel – continues to take the initiative and lead the largest national civilian project undertaken in Israel since the 1967 war – the settlements. This ongoing undertaking is a march of folly not only because it costs a huge amount of money: it also guarantees the continuation of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

    It is an undertaking involving huge expenditures to which there appears to be no end. Perhaps the construction of homes need not be taken into account, as persons living in the settlements would still have needed homes had they chosen to remain within the Green Line. However, a home in a settlement is less expensive for the settler but very expensive for every other Israeli: settlements involve expensive infrastructures, expensive by-pass roads, a separation wall, armored transportation, generous public services, income tax and municipal tax breaks, development subsidies and housing purchase assistance.

    The real costs are higher still: special military installations built to protect the settlements and their access roads, military activity in which all units of the infantry need to take part, and special budgetary outlays in times of increased hostilities. Since the first Intifada, the defense budget has received additional allocations for "events in the territories" amounting to $13.5 billion.

    Who pays? Tax-payers, and, among them, members of the middle class. The same people called upon to patrol and to scout and to fight – the middle class, which is the backbone of the Israel Defense Forces.

    So what do we have here? We have a state of Israel with a split personality, a two-faced state. On the Israeli side of the Green Line, it says to the middle class: "It's not my job to correct the situation," while on the occupied side of the Green Line it says: "I'll do it! I'll do it! I'll initiate. I'll invest. I'll build. I'll take care of you." What we have is a highly pro-active state on the east side of the Green line and a free market state on west side of the Green Line. A democratic state with a free market here, and an occupier state with state socialism for settlers there.

    The rat race and the march of folly. Has Israel reached the breaking point?

    Shlomo Swirski is the Academic Research Director of the Adva Center, which provides policy analysis and public education on issues of economic inequality in Israel.

  • The Sweet Taste of Justice

    29 March 2012

    I fell in love with Jerusalem when I came here last year as part of a year-long study for my rabbinical program in the US. Like many good love stories, it was unexpected and even fraught. After months of praying with Women of the Wall, visiting the West Bank, arguing in the supermarket, and feeling upset about how Israel didn’t match my vision of a Jewish State, I realized that it only hurt because I cared so much.

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  • The Time for Renewal

    02 October 2014

    To be honest, many people have said "it's about time." To be even more honest, some have asked us whether it isn't already too late.

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  • The Transformative Nature of Literacy

    10 October 2013

    By Linda Lippitt, October 2013

    When I was 11 and in Hebrew school, I asked our teacher what the little lines above and below some letters were (the trope notes). The answer was "you don’t have to bother with those darling." Thirty years later, after the Bar Mitzvah of my youngest child, I decided I would have a Bat Mitzvah. The first time I opened the Torah and could read, and chant our ancient text, tears of joy ran down my face. It was really MY Torah now. Today, I regularly leyn (read), and whenever I prepare to read, I find a particular line I never noticed before, full of meaning for my life. I take great joy in teaching others too. Many children who find learning a challenge seem to feel less threatened by a warm sympathetic person, be it man or woman.

    Linda is a developmental pediatrician who regularly chants and teaches at the 2 Conservative synagogues she attends.

     

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  • The Unbroken Camera

    24 July 2013

    July 24, 2013

    This past Friday, our friend and colleague Sarit Michaeli was shot with a rubber-coated bullet. Sarit is the spokesperson for B'tselem, Israel's leading human rights organization in the occupied territories and an NIF grantee. She was wounded as she filmed and monitored a regularly-held demonstration at Nabi Saleh near Ramallah in the West Bank.  The circumstances surrounding the shooting are deeply concerning.  You can read Sarit's account of what happened here, and you can see a video of the incident that Sarit herself filmed.  As you'll see, Sarit is tough and brave, and she's recovering well.  I warn you, though:  the video is rather graphic and, for some, tough to watch.  We've called for the military investigate this incident immediately.

    B'Tselem and the volunteers it equips with video cameras have documented conflicts between West Bank Palestinians, the IDF, the border police and the settlers for many years. That effort has been invaluable in calling attention to the inevitable violence and human rights violations entailed by a 46-year occupation.  And, although high-ranking army officials have themselves depended on B'Tselem's documentation for evidence, it goes without saying that there are those who would prefer that events on the West Bank remained undocumented and indeed invisible to Israelis and to the rest of the world.

    Only a week ago, a B'Tselem video chronicled the detention of a five-year-old boy and his father, in contravention of the army's own regulations.

    And increasingly, hardliners have been repeating the new trope that these kinds of monitoring activities - the kind Sarit was shot performing - serve to "undermine" and weaken the IDF.  In a country where the army is a beloved institution, this a serious charge indeed.  It is also a false one.  As we know (and as I wrote recently in Ha'aretz), holding a democracy's institutions accountable to universal human rights norms and the basic tenets of democratic society does not serve to undermine those institutions.  Rather, it serves to strengthen and preserve democracy.

    That's the work of B'tselem and our other human rights grantees.  Their job is to hold a mirror up to their society, and ask the hard questions about what kind of country Israel is going to be.   New Israel Fund was one of the founding organizations of B'Tselem many years ago, and we continue to be a funder and partner of B'Tselem now. We are proud of their record, their video documentation project and their personal and professional bravery.  Documenting the human rights environment in the Occupied Territories is absolutely necessary for a democracy that is legally and morally responsible for daily life on the West Bank.  B'Tselem's heroic efforts represent the very best Jewish and universal values, and the very best of Israel.

    I know you join me in wishing Sarit a refuah shelma, a complete recovery, and in offering support to the guardians of Israel's democratic soul.


    Daniel Sokatch
    CEO

     

  • The Voices of God

    23 October 2013

    By Mike Rahimi, October 2013

    I was raised in an Orthodox Shul in Queens. I thought nothing of the separation of men and women, that's how it always was. I left Synagogue at 13, when I was told I became a man and could make my own decisions. It was WRT in Scarsdale and Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Ken Chasen, Angela Warnick-Buchdahl and Cantor Stephen Merkel who brought me back. Praying in a language my kids could understand, having a woman Rabbi/Cantor, accepting of all, straight, gay, Jew and Gentile. Love of our people and religion is predicated on being open to all people. Men are no better than women, gays are no better than straight, we should all be equal, that is what Westchester Reform Temple meant then and means now even with all different clergy carrying on the tradition. The late Cantor Merkel having a voice that could place him at the Metropolitan Opera also helped.

     

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