Elevating Russian-Speaking Voices

4 March 2020

Does Israel’s media enable the voices of its Russian-speaking population to be heard? And they are heard, which voices are given a platform?

In order to increase progressive Russian-speaking voices in Israel’s Russian and Hebrew media, Shatil in collaboration with the Seventh Eye, recently launched the Ru.il website, an online database of Russian-speaking experts. The database is intended for journalists, researchers, editors, and planners of public events.

The user-friendly, searchable multi-lingual site currently features 90 experts in a variety of fields, including education, women’s rights,the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,psychology, and LGBTQ issues. The site introduces each expert with a full screen photo which can be clicked on for more information. It is modeled on a similar database of Arab Israeli experts in various fields compiled by NIF grantee Sikkuy: The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality.

Vadim Blumin, a historian, activist and New Israel Fund board member who opened the festive launch, said he is waiting for the day when he will be invited to speak on his areas of expertise – history and education – and not only about issues specifically related to the Russian-speaking community.

“In addition to ensuring that Russian voices in the media are diverse, Ru.il ensures that when they speak about us, they don’t speak without us,” said Nadia Aizner, Shatil’s coordinator of Russian-language media work and the website’s initiator.

“Our goal is to add a fresh, new voice to the public discourse; to deepen and widen and enrich it,” she said.

The web site is part of a trend of greater interest in Israel’s Russian-speaking community. “Especially in the past year, we have seen an awakening of interest in this community as a result of both the attacks against it and the courting of it by politicians,” Aizner said. The website is the result of years of Shatil work with the Russian-speaking community and Russian-language media in Israel, she added.

“We’re also leveraging the changes we’ve seen in the Russian-language media here,” said Aizner. “The older, more politically conservative generation is leaving and younger people coming in want a greater variety of voices. We want to help them to diversify and to find interviewees to answer difficult questions having to do with racism, refugees and other issues of the day. There are many opportunities to use a variety of voices and we want to enable them to take advantage of these opportunities.”