Honoring Israel’s Guardians of Democracy at NIF’s Gala

6 October 2021

The Jewish holidays are over, and in Israel, the news cycle is back in high gear.

Last Tuesday there was a coordinated attack by Israeli settlers on a number of Palestinian villages in the South Hebron Hills. The violence injured more than a dozen Palestinians—one of whom was a three-year-old boy whose skull was cracked by a stone settlers threw into his house while he was sleeping.

The following week, a group of NIF grantees — from Breaking the Silence, to Combatants for Peace, Peace Now, Omdim BeYachad (Standing Together), and a number of other organizations — traveled to the South Hebron Hills, demonstrating solidarity with the Palestinians who live there, and demanding — loudly and clearly — an end to the occupation and the illegal settlement enterprise.

The pictures of over 500 Israelis making the hours-long journey to the South Hebron Hills along dusty, windy roads, standing up and being counted among those who oppose settlements, extremism, racism, and violence, filled me with pride.

It is that pride – and the stories of the coalitions, campaigns, and movement-building that NIF makes possible – that I want to share with you at our Guardian of Democracy virtual one-hour gala later this month, on Sunday, October 24. The Guardian of Democracy virtual gala is an opportunity to come together to celebrate the work we are doing, the movement we are building together, and the hope we have for a better, fairer, more democratic Israel.

In times like these, with the pandemic still keeping us apart, with our societies so divided, it is good to lean on each other. To feel and give support.

One of the people who has supported me over the last 3-plus years is our board president, David N. Myers. It will be my absolute pleasure to honor him, as well as our keynote speakers and dear friends: Minister of Transportation Merav Michaeli, Chairwoman of the Labor Party; Minister for Regional Cooperation Esawi Frej, member of the Meretz Party and the second-ever Arab minister to serve in an Israeli government; and finally, Sharon Abraham-Weiss, outgoing Executive Director of NIF’s flagship grantee, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

What’s more, we will present the annual Guardian of Democracy “Gallanter Prize” to two activists, champions of Arab-Jewish partnership: Fida Shehada, councilwoman in the Israeli city of Lod and groundbreaking progressive political leader; and Mikhael Manekin, founder of Alliance for Israel’s Future, an organization dedicated to creating a political network between Arabs and Jews in Israel. I know that you are as excited as I am to hear what these two up and coming superstars have to say to our community about the vital work they are doing.

Each of our speakers inspires me and gives me hope. Together, they are a force of nature. So I want to formally invite you, once more, to the most spectacular progressive Israel event of 2021: NIF’s “Guardian of Democracy” virtual gala.

One more thing: This week, the BBC released a mini-documentary (a video about 4 minutes long) about a dynamic Israeli duo and their (NIF supported) rap video urging Israelis – Jews and Arabs alike— to “talk straight” to each other. Palestinian artist Sameh Zakout and Israeli educator and creator Uriya Rosenman are making headlines in Israel and beyond, and I’m delighted to let you in on a little secret:

Sameh and Uriya are going to be dropping their newest video at our gala. It will be the world premiere of their next big thing. You definitely don’t want to miss it!

So join me, the NIF team, our incredible speakers, and Sameh and Uriya for the Guardian of Democracy gala on October 24. I’ll see you there.