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  • Briefing on Israeli High Court ruling on Asylum Seekers

    02 October 2013

    September 2013

    In September, Israel's High Court struck down a law that imprisoned asylum seekers for years without trial. The ruling was a big win for Israeli democracy.

    We invited Sigal Rozen of the Hotline for Migrant Workers to speak about the significance of this decision, its practical implications, and its impact on the refugee and asylum-seeker community in Israel.


  • Building a More Inclusive Israel

    12 February 2014

    Israel, founded as the Jewish state, was never meant to be a theocracy...


  • Building Civic Power

    23 May 2013

    May 23, 2013

    Earlier this week, SHATIL - NIF's operating arm - celebrated its 30th anniversary. For three decades, SHATIL has helped Israeli NGOs and activists build capacity and power, work effectively in coalitions, and develop leadership. This week it observed its birthday in classic SHATIL fashion by hosting a two-day conference entitled, SHATIL at 30: People Making Change a Reality - Building Civic Power.

    Hundreds of people attended the conference, listening to Israeli experts like Eva Illouz, Professor of Sociology at the Hebrew University and cutting edge author and thinker, address obstacles to building civic power, and our own Naomi Chazan talk about what it is, exactly, social change agents need to try to change. Attendees also heard from international luminaries like Heather Booth, a leading American political strategist, and many others. They participated in workshops focusing on subjects like using dialogue as a tool for transforming violent conflicts and leveraging the virtual world for genuine impact.

    Participants also discussed the results of a survey SHATIL did in preparation for the conference that examined Israeli views on civil society and civic power. The poll - and the conference in general - garnered a great deal of media attention in Israel, and with good reason. Some of the findings: Almost 90% of Israelis polled believe that government has not responded sufficiently to social needs and problems, and that civil society and social movements can to lead to positive change. 68% of respondents believe that the 2011 social protests empowered the public with the belief that it can make change.

    I particularly liked what SHATIL's dynamic director, my friend and colleague Ronit Heyd, had to say in an interview in the Jerusalem Post:

    "I think that any activity that reflects the interests of citizens is a strength. It's about citizens being active, monitoring the decisions of members of the Knesset, addressing decision-makers directly. This is what at the end of the day creates power instead of leaving it in the hands of decision-makers who tend to see numbers and not people."

    "We live in a fascinating period," she told the Post.

    "On the one hand, our reality becomes full of elements threatening democracy like racism, religious issues and other thing. But on the other hand, there is a sort of citizens' awakening, which peaked in the summer of 2011, and we see much more belief in our ability to influence life in the country, which is touching and very encouraging."

    Touching, encouraging, and also a great tribute to the innovative, creative and essential work of SHATIL. Kol ha Kavod to Ronit and her team; here's to another 30 years of building power for a better Israel.

    Daniel Sokatch


  • Cheering Vashti

    11 October 2013

    By Alexandra Stein, October 2013

    I grew up in a Reform congregation in Washington, DC that fully embraced the feminist movement. Our Cantor and one of our Rabbis were women, and on Purim, we not only booed Haman, we also cheered Vashti - because she knew that her body was her own and she did not let a man (even her husband) force her to do something with it that she did not want to do.

    As a girl, it was empowering for me to see women on the Bima reading Torah and leading prayers and sharing learning. I knew that I could grow up to be a Rabbi if I wanted, and I also knew that when I was thirteen, I would read Torah and Haftarah and be received by my congregation as a full adult member, able to help make a minyan. Receiving my tallit just before my Bat Mitzvah was very exciting. Putting it on then, and most subsequent Shabbatot, focused my mind on prayer and on G-d.

    Gender equality is not just about individual empowerment (important though that is). When I think of the impact that gender equality in American Progressive Judaism has had on my community, I mostly think of people - my childhood Rabbi and Cantor, another female Cantorial Soloist, and many lay leaders in the congregation - who quite simply would not have been there in another generation. These women had a profound impact on my life, shaping how I think and how I pray and how I live, and I know that many others in my congregation, men and women, feel the same way. Our Jewish experiences would have been deeply impoverished had they not been ordained, or allowed on the Bima.


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  • Coalition Tag Meir

    20 June 2012

    June 18, 2012

    Tag Meir -- a coalition of Israeli organizations convened by NIF -- sent the following letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    The Prime Minister
    MK Benjamin Netanyahu

    Dear Mr. Netanyahu,

    Re: Price Tag – A Strategic Threat

    We -- the members of the Coalition Tag Meir (Bright Tag) comprising non-profit organizations from all sections of Israeli society working to counter Jewish terrorism and violence against Palestinians, Israelis working for human rights and even IDF officers -- turn to you concerning the Price Tag attacks that have, to our distress, been continuing for over two years.

    Following the decisions of the Government, the Knesset and the High Court concerning Givat Ha'Ulpana, we believe that there is a serious threat of Price Tag attacks erupting in the West Bank and within Israel itself. Warnings of such attacks have been received in the last few days in the Jewish-Arab settlement of Neve Shalom and in the Arab neighborhood of Shuafat in Jerusalem.

    During the past two years, a dozen mosques have been desecrated, hundreds of car tires have been punctured, olive trees uprooted, shops and bazaars vandalized, threatening graffiti daubed on the homes of high ranking IDF personnel and IDF bases have even been penetrated and attacked.

    Mr. Prime Minister: Past experience has proven that Price Tag activists, bolstered by "Halachic" manuals and "learned" articles, will continue to attack innocent victims to revenge the withdrawal from settlements and homes. Warning of Price Tag attacks has been given: the writing is on the wall.

    Sir, we urge you now, not to surrender to these threats and to Jewish terror and vandalism. We are horrified at the ease at which these attacks have taken place in the past and we urge you to order increased security around the Palestinian settlements most at risk, to guard the mosques in these settlements, to increase the number of police and border police patrols in the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem and the inter-denominational institutions. We ask you to increase the security surrounding officials of the Chief Public Prosecutor and high ranking IDF officers who will bear the responsibility for evacuating Givat Ha'Ulpana and the IDF bases in the vicinity.

    We believe that the actions of "Tag Machir" present a strategic threat to the moral fiber of the State of Israel to its Jewish character, to its security and its social complexity and it is your responsibility to act with determination to remove this threat from our midst.


    The Action Committee of the Kibbutz Movement, Bina – The Secular Yeshiva, Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, The Masorti Movement, Yeshivat Talpiot, Elijah Interfaith Institute, The Shittim Institute, Oz VeShalom Netivot Shalom, Realistic Zionist Movement, One Voice, Rabbis for Human Rights, Shatil, Combatants for Peace, Yod Bet B'Heshvan

    c.c.: Minster for Defense, MK Ehud Barak
    Minster for Internal Affairs, MK Yitzhak Aharonovitz
    Police Commissioner, Yohanan Danino
    Attorney General, Adv. Yehuda Weinstein
    State Attorney, Adv. Moshe Lador

  • Colorado girl's Kotel experience

    23 October 2013

    By Melinda Robin, October 2013

    When I was 17, I came to Israel as part of Young Judaea Year Course...the only kid from Colorado. We boarded the bus at the airport, exhausted from the long flight. First stop, prior to arriving at our dorms and getting settled - the Kotel. Imagine the power - our first Israel experience was approaching the Kotel, touching, leaving prayers between the stones, feeling deeply that we were a part of a larger Jewish history. That was 1971. Today's generation of young women - young women like my daughter - deserve the opportunity of this experience unmarred by religious or political overtones.

    Melinda Robin: Grew up in BBYO and Young Judaea - Denver, Colorado. Young Judaea Year Course 1971-2. Kibbutz Ketura 1974-5. Revisit 1981. Life took me to Hawaii and to Montana where I have been practicing veterinary medicine for over 20 years. Haven't been back to Israel in way too long but longing to go. Goal - take my husband and children....first stop...Kotel.


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  • Coming of Age, Again

    09 October 2013

    By Cathy Swerdlow, October 2013

    I became a Bat Mitzvah at a Conservative synagogue in New York State in 1965, but it took me years to realize that my ceremony and that of the boys in my class were not equal. You see, I conducted the Friday evening service only. And, after reciting the Kiddush, I chanted the Haftorah portion for the week. But it was chanted "for real" the following day by the boy who had his Bar Mitzvah on Shabbat morning. I was not called to Torah, he was. At the time, I accepted that this was the way it was done.

    As Judaism in America responded to the societal changes of feminism, the Reconstructionist, Reform and Conservative movements became egalitarian. Rabbis and cantors, religious school principals and teachers could be male or female. Women are now counted in the minyan. And I have found myself more involved in Judaism as a full participant, more than I could have imagined as a young girl.

    I wear a tallilt and kippah, don tefillin on weekdays at our community minyan and read Torah on a regular basis in my Conservative synagogue.


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  • Comments by Sara Ozacky-Lazar at Tuba-Zangariya

    06 October 2011

    October 6 is a day of great pain for my generation that went through the Yom Kippur War and lost our best friends. But it is also a day of modesty, when we lost our illusions and we perceived in the cruelest way that it was impossible to solve the conflict between Israel and its neighbors with military might, and that it was not possible to live here and triumph using the sword. Since then, 38 blood-soaked years of war have passed as well as attempts to pave different paths to peace and reconciliation.

    So once again it is October 6 and the eve of Yom Kippur, and once again we witness inexplicable violence, arrogance, blunt and harmful designed to light up a flame, which is alien to us.

    Over the past summer a different spirit swept the country blowing aside for the moment differences of nationality, religion, class and gender and generating a feeling of a rejuvenated Israeli identity struggling for joint values and respecting all men and citizens.

    The despicable act carried out here at a mosque in the heart of Tuba-Zangariya is aimed at murdering this spirit, to rekindle hatred and fear, to sabotage the path to peace and tolerance and mutual respect, and perpetuate the vicious circle of destruction and bloodshed, and sow despair and dread.

    We have come here, representatives of dozens of organizations, and rank and file individuals, to tell you that we support you and that today we are all Tuba-Zangariya. We do not distinguish between praying in a mosque or a synagogue, between Muslim and Jew, between religious and secular and between men and women.

    We have come here to protest this crime and call on Israel's law enforcement authorities to find the guilty parties before they can repeat these crimes, and root them out of society and punish them with the full force of the law.

    In the name of NIF, I apologize to the residents of Tuba-Zangariya, and the entire Muslim community in Israel. NIF is the leading and most important organization in the struggle for democracy and civil rights in Israel, and in efforts to protect religious pluralism and freedom of opinion and expression, and NIF places at the top of its agenda creating a society based on joint living and equality between Jews and Arabs in Israel.

    We will continue to work harder to bring back Israel's human and democratic character and to prevent the descent of all of us into the abyss of darkness in to which those who perpetrated this act of terror on the mosque are trying to drag us.

    These are days of asking for forgiveness and I ask you for your forgiveness. These are days of soul searching and that is what I am doing up here on the stage together will all of you - we have not done enough to prevent this act, we were not alert enough t the danger and we did not warn about it in a loud enough voice.

    We must work together more strenuously to erase this disgrace and to prevent its recurrence and to protect the image of God and man.

    Because we are all citizens of this land which is so extremely dear to us, and because we all live together in this country and the same sunshine illuminates our way ahead and is the source of our lives. We will not let these people drive us apart and make hell of our lives.

    Thank you all the residents of Tuba-Zangariya for welcoming us here today at such a difficult time for you. We hope to return here again and again in better times.