Meet Avigail Kormes: Activist and NIF Grants Officer

13 February 2019

Avigail Kormes is a kibbutznik and a daughter of a social activist. She comes from a long line of Zionists and she identifies as one as well – a Zionist who works to secure Israel’s future as a democracy and as the homeland of the Jewish people.

“I feel really privileged to be working in a place where I don’t have to leave my conscience at the door,” says Avigail.

After two years at Shatil, where she started as an administrative assistant, and ten years as an NIF grants officer, Avigail left this week for a year in East Asia due to her partner’s relocation.

Avigail was an activist from a young age. The first demonstration she remembers attending was a torchlit march after a peace activist was killed when she was five. In her youth, she attended a camp in Cyprus where she worked on a peace agreement with Palestinian participants. “We almost got there,” she says, “We just couldn’t agree on Jerusalem.”

Since then she has participated in countless demonstrations and protests. Her master’s degree in international law gave her human rights expertise from a different perspective.

As an NIF grant officer, Avigail keeps her fingers on the pulse of the field by meeting with activists and organizations. She evaluates their activities over time and recommends priorities to the NIF board.

“Working at NIF is exciting and gratifying,” says Avigail. “I feel I’m in a place that has influence. Because I’m an activist myself, I’m in a good position to understand the needs of activists.”

Avigail feels she usually has to use her head rather than her heart in her work, but sometimes she goes with her instincts. After attending a meeting of refugee and South Tel Aviv residents on a neighborhood rooftop in 2012, Avigail felt something important was brewing. She suggested a grant to the group, which became known as Power to the Community and which reflects a face of South Tel Aviv that allowed for a strong alliance between Israelis and people seeking asylum in South Tel Aviv that many thought wasn’t possible. The group turned out to be an important voice in the successful protests against the deportation of refugees in 2018.

Despite this recent success, she often feels pessimistic about the short term in Israel. “But in the long run, I believe things will improve,” says Avigail, “I believe the occupation, which is at the root of so many problematic things, will one day end. I see more and more people, such as academics and journalists, who are also coming under attack, understanding the importance of defending democracy and human rights.”

Photo by Elad Malka