As we prepare for the upcoming NIF Board meeting in Jerusalem, I’ve been reviewing the eventful, challenging and often heartbreaking year that recently ended. 2014 was a tough year for Israel and for the values and vision so many of us believe in. It was a year that saw the kidnappings and murders of Israeli and Palestinian teenagers, an increase in racism and incitement, and the latest round of violence in and around Gaza. It was a year that saw the divide between Israel and many of its allies grow wider, and the debate within the American Jewish community about Israel grow shriller and sharper. During my travels in 2014 I met with NIF supporters all over the world, and I know that for many people, this was a year filled with worry, heartache and even despair.
But this week Americans observed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. o it’s a good time to recall that, at a time of worry, heartache and despair here in the United States, MLK asked “How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Dr. King was no passive observer, and he didn’t mean that we should take comfort in the arc, and wait for justice. He meant for us get up, roll up our sleeves and bend the arc ourselves. (It’s no wonder that America’s leading Jewish social justice organization is called, you guessed it, Bend the Arc).
That’s just what thousands of Israelis did in 2014. From grassroots activists in the Tag Meir coalition, who responded to hatred and incitement by reaching out in friendship and compassion, to the civil rights organizations that successfully challenged at the High Court Israel’s detention of hundreds of African refugees; from women who gained recognition for their struggle for equality to legislators who responded to our fight against anti-democratic legislation, tens of thousands of Israelis worked to bend the arc in their country. These were real victories that made a real difference. 2014 was also the year that NIF launched our New Initiatives for Democracy – an ambitious new attempt to build progressive infrastructure, strengthen the voices of egalitarianism and equality, and turbocharge organizations working for positive social change. And it wasn’t just the inspirational community of NIF organizations that engaged in this critical work last year. At a time when, all too often, the halls of Israeli power seemed to echo with voices preaching the politics of exclusion and intolerance, Israel’s new President, a man of the Right, emerged as a leading light of tolerance and inclusion.
It’s depressing to say it so early, but 2015 is off to a difficult start. Our hearts have already been broken in Paris (not to mention in Nigeria, and in Cameroon, and in….); we know they will be broken again before too long. In Israel, the northern border is once again tense, and residents brace for another round of violence. But through it all, the Israelis you and I support work to bend the arc, to bring justice and peace to their country. 2015 is going to be a big year in Israel. Despite the challenges and trouble, hope is in the air. Here’s to another year of standing with Israel’s change-makers and justice-seekers. It’s time to renew our commitment to them. It’s time to bend the arc.