The New Israel Fund (NIF) announced today that it will grant the “Guardian of Democracy” Gallanter Prize to Maisam Jaljuli.
Maisam Jaljuli is a Palestinian citizen of Israel, a social activist, a feminist, and political organizer in Israel. The Gallanter Prize is awarded annually to an outstanding Israeli activist who has made significant contributions to the field of social justice in Israel. The winner receives a cash award in support of their work and are invited to address NIF’s Guardian of Democracy Dinner. Past winners include chairwoman of Physicians for Human Rights Israel, Dr. Mushira Aboo Dia, a central leader of the African asylum seeker community in Israel, Mutasim Ali, and the Israel Religious Action Center’s director of legal and public policy, Einat Hurvitz.
Maisam became an activist while working with at-risk youth in the Israeli municipality offices of Tira, the Palestinian-Israeli village where she lives. When the municipality threatened to cut the jobs of low-wage workers, she led the struggle against the administration. During that fight she felt that the Histadrut, the powerful Israeli Labor Federation, had not provided her with the help she needed, so she decided to run for position of leadership in the Histadrut herself. In 2007, she was elected to the Histadrut and became the chairwoman of NAAMAT, the Hisdadrut’s internal women’s organization and the largest women’s organization in Israel, as a candidate for the Hadash Party. Maisam has been organizing women in six Arab-Israel villages ever since. It was in this capacity that she helped organize one of the most massive, country-wide demonstrations in Israel’s history last year to protest violence against women in Israel.
Maisam is also helping to build a shared future for Jews and Arabs in Israel. She is a member of the national leadership team of Omdim Beyachad (Standing Together), a grassroots Israeli movement that organizes Arabs and Jews in Israel around campaigns for peace, equality, and social justice. She sits on the board of Sikkuy, an organization that advocates for equal treatment and presence in public space for Arabs and Jews and Itach-Ma’aki: Women Lawyers for Social Justice. Each of these organizations is also a grantee of the New Israel Fund.
In an interview with NIF, Jaljuli said, “I believe social and economic issues are interconnected with the occupation — we can’t talk about occupation without talking about all kinds of racism and separation and discrimination. Social and economic issues are all connected. If we want to convince people to be involved, we have to convince them that all of our struggles are shared struggles, and that we struggle for the same goal: social justice. So you see us in the LGBTQ struggle, the Ethiopian-Israeli community’s struggle, supporting Bedouin in the Negev who are struggling against the demolitions of their homes, and for women who are suffering from violence. We all want to live in peace.”
Maisam holds a BA in Criminology and Sociology and an MA in Educational Leadership from Bar Ilan University. She lives with her family in Tira, Israel. She is thrilled to receive this year’s Gallanter Prize.