Today is Israel’s Independence Day. It’s a day for us to celebrate the real Israel — not the exclusionary, narrow, ethnocentric, and increasingly-authoritarian Israel that the country’s political leaders have come to represent, but rather the beautiful, inclusive, pluralistic society that’s there on the ground, made up of real people striving to lead lives of meaning together.
It is the people that you and I have gotten to know in Israel that made us fall in love with the country in the first place, and which make us fall in love over and over again.
It is the activists who carry on in the spirit of Israel’s founding generation. It is members of communities who have been sidelined by the political process — be it of Mizrahi, of Russian, or of Ethiopian background. It is the feminist and the LGBTQ rights leaders. And, of course, it is Palestinian citizens who have generations of history in the land, but who are also too often left out.
Today is Israel’s Independence Day. And all of these people and perspectives are part of the story of Israel as it turns 70. You and I are a part of this story too, because — through NIF — we have worked to make every voice heard.
For almost forty years, activists from every part of Israeli society have looked to NIF for help – not just funding, but the skills and the know-how to make social change happen. And this spring, NIF will focus on telling the stories of those trailblazers who acted on their values and came together to fight for their rights. We want people to see how these trailblazers led the way towards a better Israel.
Yes. We have opposition too. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made that abundantly clear when he tried to blame the New Israel Fund for his own feckless leadership and failed policies.
His motivation is clear: our dedication to equality and democracy in Israel is dangerous to the political brand that he has built based on fear, incitement, and exclusion. After all, this is the man who, worried about his poll numbers on the day of the last election, warned his voting base: “The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are heading in droves to the polls.”
The reaction of the Israeli public to the prime minister’s attack on NIF has been energizing. Countless Israelis spoke out on social and traditional media to reject his comments and to embrace NIF. More than 3,000 Israelis donated more than a million Shekels in a matter of days. NIF was once considered to be Israel’s best kept secret. Today, we are well-known and have very many supporters from every part of Israeli society.
NIF has been there for 40 years to fight alongside communities for their inclusion. We’ve made great strides and have a lot of work ahead. We must continue to stand alongside the trailblazers of tomorrow.
Thank you for your partnership,