Guiding Civil Society Through the COVID-19 Crisis

19 March 2020

While the COVID-19 virus is swiftly shutting down more of everyday life in Israel, NIF’s action arm Shatil is working intensively – and remotely – to provide leadership and assistance for Israel’s social change community.

On Tuesday, Shatil held an online consultation for the leaders of social change organizations entitled, “Emergency Management and Leadership – Coping with the Corona Crisis.” Based on feedback from this session, Shatil will rapidly design and distribute a toolkit for how to work during this crisis.

While this first session was conducted in Hebrew, Shatil is planning a similar process for organizations serving Arab citizens and will publish materials in Arabic as well.

“As a leading player in civil society,” said Shatil Director Esther Sivan, “our role during this crisis is to provide both an infrastructure and a home for organizations, as well as to criticize government policy, ask questions, examine policy justifications, protect human rights, and fight for distributive justice in health and welfare and equitable public health policies.”

As a pioneering leader in online learning, connecting and managing of complex processes, Shatil is providing invaluable knowledge to groups with no previous experience working online. Shatil also is guiding organizations on best practices regarding how to cope with sudden financial emergencies, manage staff working in multiple conditions, productively transfer work to online platforms. Shatil is moving its planned courses and meetings online and adapting them to address current and emergent needs.

In addition, Shatil is proactively working to improve government public health responses for all.

After media coverage of the work of the Shatil-led Arab-Jewish Citizens’ Forum for the Promotion of Health in the Galilee and advocacy by the Union of Private Ambulances and former Shatil Associate Director, MK Jaber Asaqleh (Joint List), Ministry of Health committed to providing protective equipment to the staff of all Israeli ambulance services — and not only those working in large cities.

To date, the government has provided such equipment only to Magen David Adom, which functions primarily in Israeli urban centers, and not to the other providers, which account for 60% of all ambulance service to Israel’s periphery. These are life-saving measures for vulnerable populations who live in the periphery, including many Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Additionally, the Ministry of Health has requested Shatil’s assistance in reaching out to the Arab Israeli community. Together with its partner organizations, Shatil is advocating for the timely publication of official information in Arabic, Russian, Amharic, and various other Asian and African languages spoken by asylum seekers and migrant workers.

Thanks to pressure from the Shatil-coordinated Public Housing Forum and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Ministry of Housing issued coronavirus-related easements for all residents of public housing.

Internally, Shatil has moved rapidly to double its capacity to safely and securely work and meet online. The IT department sent detailed manuals about numerous online work possibilities to Shatil staff, who in turn, shared the manuals with social change organizations.

Shatil has already published guidelines and ideas for social change organizations regarding how to work during this crisis. At the end of Tuesday’s post on Shatil’s blog, Shatil’s Gali Bessudo found a ray of sunshine in the coronavirus cloud:

“Many people are sitting at home looking for ways to change the reality they are facing,” she wrote. “These are times that enable not only organizations to call for change, but also they provide an opportunity for solidarity and civic engagement to become mainstream acts.”