A New Discourse in Israel’s Russian-Speaking Community

18 June 2015

In early June, one hundred leaders from Israel’s Russian-speaking community, NGOs, diplomats, and peace activists gathered to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of ReLevant, the Russian-language news analysis and current affairs website. Founded by Shatil and the Coalition against Racism, ReLevant promotes democratic values and an alternative discourse among Russian speakers. The site also helps to empower traditionally marginalized voices. It is now coordinated by Morashtenu, the leading organization representing Israelis from the former Soviet Union (FSU) that promotes a liberal agenda in Israel.

In a traditionally right-wing and populist Russian-language media environment with little room for dissenting voices, ReLevant’s democratic values and alternative discourse have attracted a growing readership. The numbers tell the story. ReLevant has welcomed nearly a quarter of a million visitors. More than 20% of Russian speakers in Israel have visited the news site. About 70% of visitors are from Israel, with most of the rest from the FSU. A majority of readers have come to the site through social media.

ReLevant has published more than 1,300 original articles, opinion pieces, and analyses on a range of issues including the peace process, racism, public housing, the elections, LGBT rights, direct employment, feminism, the ongoing changes in the Arab world, and minority rights. A weekly column connects the Torah portion to current events and social justice issues.

And the Russian-language media itself is feeling the impact. Many ReLevant pieces gained additional exposure in other Russian media outlets or were translated into Hebrew.

“When we started ReLevant, no one dreamed that in two years we would be where we are today,” says ReLevant editor and Shatil Russian Media Coordinator, Nadia Aizner. “We are an established fact in the Russian media arena in Israel. We believe ReLevant is important for the entire Russian-speaking community and aim to continue to increase its influence.”

At the ceremony, ReLevant writers Arkadi Mazin and David Eidelman spoke about how writing for ReLevant enabled them, for the first time, to express themselves without feeling the need to censor themselves. Writer Anna Talisman remarked how ReLevant provided her with a vital platform to write on feminist and LGBT rights issues.

The importance of ReLevant is also recognized by other communities within Israel. “As an Arab citizen of Israel, I believe it is vital to work with the Russian-speaking community to promote peace, tolerance, and democratic values,” remarked Coalition Against Racism head Nidal Othman.