Rosh Hashanah begins tomorrow night, marking the start of a new year. The holiday heralds a period of somber reflection on the year that is coming to an end, and, quite naturally, a moment of optimism — of hope — for the year to come.
The year that is ending included real moments of bitterness: The kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers; the revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager, the war which left more than 2,000 dead and many more suffering.
Those of us committed to strengthening the fabric of Israeli society — to the notion that Israel must be both a Jewish homeland and also a democracy that offers full equality to all its citizens — were not blind to the enormous impact of these tense times on the relationship between Jews and Arabs within Israel.
As the new year approaches, I will celebrate and recommit myself to supporting those Jews and Arabs within Israel who took action to hold Israeli society together. I remember the thousands who turned out at a Tag Meir rally in Jerusalem under the banner “We mourn, we don’t avenge.” I remember the thousands of others — Jews and Arabs — who stood together at intersections or in town centers holding signs reading “Neighbors of Peace.” I think of the town in the Negev which dispatched guards to bomb shelters to ensure that everybody, Jewish and Arab, would be allowed in when the alarm sounded.
The sweetness of their determination to set Israel on a better path is a strong antidote to the bitter.
In the year ahead, I am committed to increasing the sweetness, with your help. NIF is based on a simple idea. People like you and me — who care about Israel and who believe in democracy and equality — join together, pool our resources, and make strategic investments to help Israel be a more free and open society.
We’ve never been afraid of supporting critical programs, even when they were unpopular. From the first rape crisis centers to the law banning torture in interrogations, NIF-backed organization have won significant victories on the cutting edge of social change. Just today the High Court threw out an unjust law incarcerating African refugees in a bleak facility in the Negev.
Today, the NIF community — you and I — are called to support the Israeli voices of reason who are facing challenges that were less prevalent in the past: growing racism, media concentration, legislation intended to limit the freedoms of expression, and more.
NIF’s New Initiatives for Democracy are intended to provide Israel’s progressive forces the tools and the partners they need to carry the day, not just issue-by-issue, but also in terms of changing the national discourse.
And thank you for being a partner in pressing for greater equality and democracy in Israel.