Keep Calm and Pray On

14 March 2013

Keep Calm and Pray On: That was the motto this week as NIF grantee Women of the Wall ushered in the Hebrew month of Nissan at the Western Wall with hundreds of supporters. Tamar Zandberg, Michal Rozin and Stav Shaffir, three newly elected members of Knesset, were right in front, leading the way for the entire group. Their presence helped keep the police at bay and, unlike in past months, no arrests occurred. The leadership displayed by these MKs was a true embodiment of the spirit of International Women’s Day, celebrated just last week.

And while that was happening in Jerusalem, 400 people gathered (“in the rain!” one of our staffers told me) at a solidarity event in New York, which was co-sponsored by NIF. 200 more gathered an event outside of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. This is a model of the spirit of the new Israeli-American partnership NIF and our allies are forging, one that recognizes that our struggles and our causes are connected. Activists in Israel know that their sisters and brothers in America have their back.

The momentum displayed at these events is part of what I hope is a new trend in progress for the rights of women in Israel. The 19th Knesset has an unprecedented number of women, and many of them are courageous champions of our values. As is the custom in Israel, new members of the Knesset give speeches. Some of the speeches were terrific (check out Ruth Calderon’s Talmud lesson, now something of an internet sensation), but one in particular blew me away. New Labor MK Merav Michaeli talked about her vision for Israel, and how vital it is for those who have power to stand up for those who don’t. After the past three-plus years we’ve spent fighting scores of antidemocratic bills coming out of that very chamber, it was a beautiful thing to hear those words from the rostrum of the Knesset:

Although our work is far from over, there has been significant progress in fighting for women’s rights. Our grantees are doing critical work, and not just on International Women’s Day. The new members of Knesset, coupled with the events of the past week, leave me feeling that maybe – just maybe – the tide on women’s rights in Israel is beginning to turn.

Daniel Sokatch


  1. My daughter, Abby, was at the Wall with Women of Reform Judaism. She is also on NIF’s Boston council.

  2. Our family cannot applaud enough the absolutely vital work NIF is doing in this and many other crucial spheres. I am old enough to remember when NIF was founded and considered by the established organizations to have no future at all. We are proud to play or little bit in NIF’s work. It is a good memory to have heard Stav Shaffir
    in Boston last year when she toured the U.S. with NIF. And now she’s an MK and showing the same guts politically that she showed on the streets as a citizen activist during the social justice demonstrations. And yes, there is some hope to be found in the coalition just formed. However, concerning the prospect for meaningful peacemaking or settlement containment, I am afraid there is very little.

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