Coming Together

27 November 2016

The terrible fires that are raging across Israel this weekend have shown just how much Israelis can come together in the face of a national emergency.

Israelis of every background — Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, right and left — came together to cope with the crisis, to put out the fires, and to take care of one another. The reports that some of these fires were politically motivated did not take away from this solidarity.

I’m particularly moved by the actions of the Palestinian-Israeli community. More than a dozen towns and cities opened their doors, hotels, schools, and community centers to host those driven from their homes.

This is a glimpse at the promise of what Israel could be, not only in times of crisis but also as a matter of routine.

NIF is about making this future of a more inclusive Israel a reality. And we know that the change isn’t going to come from Israel’s political leaders. This future is going to be forged from the bottom up out of Israel’s civil society.

I’ve heard from our staff in Jerusalem and Haifa. And I can tell you that many of the displays of solidarity we’re now seeing were made possible by the relationships built over years of shared struggle in our efforts to fashion a better Israel. The work that these activists did over the past several days presented an enormous contribution to the ability of Israeli society to move on from this crisis with a sense of unity.

And as with this story, when you look at the positive change that’s happened in the past year — putting an end to the segregation of Jewish and Arab women in hospital maternity wards; closing discrimination in government budgets; bringing out record numbers (including a huge contingent of Orthodox Israelis) to the Jerusalem Pride march — in every case it was the work of committed activists that drove the success.

Right now — as I hope this crisis is drawing to a close — we’re investing in work that counters the divisiveness and xenophobia that threatens the country:

  • We’re building a shared society that is truly inclusive by empowering grassroots efforts that repair and strengthen the relationships between Jews and Arabs within Israel.
  • We’re supporting anti-racism initiatives that “name and shame” extremists who fuel tensions and ensure that government officials act to end discrimination.
  • We’re launching media-monitoring programs that hold the media accountable so that they don’t just parrot the government line without criticism, but rather start telling the whole story.

NIF has always been on the side of Israelis striving to build a better Israel, an Israel marked by equality and democracy. We have always known that — irrespective of what political leaders do — a great deal of good can come by empowering leaders of civil society to drive change.

This the secret to our success. Funding work on the ground is how we make progress even under political leadership that too often pits Israelis against each other.

Giving Tuesday is less than two days away. That marks the start of our all-important year-end giving season, in which we raise one-third of our operating budget every year. I’m very thankful for all of the support that we’ve already gotten so far. The work ahead is going to be difficult, even more difficult than it has been in the past. But with your partnership, I know we will make all the difference.

Thank you for everything,
Daniel Sokatch

Photo Credit: Ehud Kenan via Flickr