Thanks to Shatil, activists bring social justice issues to Israel's municipal elections

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Photo: Uriel Sinai / Getty Images

More local councils around the country will be equipped to promote democracy, social justice and shared society issues as a result of Shatil's focus on the municipal elections this year. Shatil, celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2013, is NIF's action arm in Israel.

Seven new local council members who won seats in the October 22 elections were trained in Shatil's pre-election leadership courses for social change in the local authorities. Ten other course graduates, who decided to run after taking the course, did not win their bids for municipal council seats, but raised important progressive issues during their campaigns. Eleven new Ethiopian Israelis are now city council members and all of them attended Shatil trainings. At least one course graduate completely changed the discourse in his city around tolerance vis a vis the gay community.

All in all, 52 activists graduated from four trainings and many more attended a range of workshops focused on leveraging the elections to promote issues such as religious pluralism, environmental protection and social housing.

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Taking Our Place: Women of the Wall's 25th Anniversary

Five prominent Australian women have contributed to a book celebrating the 25th anniversary of Israeli organisation “Women of the Wall”.

Rachel Liel and Anat HoffmanNew Israel Fund (NIF) Australia and the Australian Reform Zionist Association (ARZA) together organised the Australian contribution to the global “Taking Our Place” campaign, in an effort to recognise the extraordinary work of “Women of the Wall”, an organisation originally seed funded with a grant from NIF, and the developing place of women in Judaism and wider society.

Women of the Wall’s anniversary celebrations was met at the Kotel by hundreds of Haredi girls. Dozens of Haredi men also joined, but they were outnumbered by the male Women of the Wall supporters, who prayed in the area adjacent to the women’s section, ensuring that the shouting and booing of the protesters failed to drown out the powerful sounds of our singing.

Donate to NIF Australia today and support organisations like Women of the Wall in Israel.

Read more in the December 6th edition of the Australian Jewish News:

AJN article

As part of the project, pioneered by the New Israel Fund, Jewish women around the world were asked to describe how their connection to their Jewish heritage has been strengthened by moves towards gender equality, as well as what can be done over the next 25 years to ensure Jewish and Israeli women continue to rise as spiritual, political and cultural leaders.

Susi Brieger OAM, Barbara Ford, Ilona Lee AM, Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio, and Ruth Wilson, all women who have played prominent roles in Australian Jewry for decades, contributed to the project. Together they wrote about their experiences as women in the Australian Jewish community and their hopes for women’s issues in Israel over the next quarter century.

You can read the Australian contributions below, and of others around the world on NIF's websiteSee photos from the event on Facebook.

The project is a show of support from Jews around the world for inclusion, tolerance and pluralism in Israel, as exemplified by the work of Women of the Wall. As a project of the entire Jewish people, it is integral that important Jewish sites are open and accessible for all Jews, regardless of gender or stream, without fear of arrest or subjection to assault.

Women of the Wall is an Israeli organisation dedicated to achieving social and legal recognition for the right of women to wear talitot, pray, read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the holiest site in Judaism, the Western Wall. 

Each rosh chodesh (the first day of each Jewish month) Women of the Wall organises a morning prayer session at the Kotel – in recent times its members have been spat on by members of the Ultra-Orthodox community and arrested for ‘disturbing the peace’, all for attempting to read from the Torah at the Wall.

Women of the Wall is made up of women from across the religious and political spectrum with the single aim to turn the Kotel (Western Wall) into a more open space that allows men and women from all streams of Judaism to pray equally. 

The book was also published as a special supplement in Haaretz on November 8th, 2013:

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Bring Democracy Back to Education Before It's Too Late

According to a new poll, nearly half of Israeli Jews think they should have more rights than non-Jews, with the figures particularly disturbing among young people. This is the result of a system that must be changed.

Continue reading for an article by NIF Executive Director Rachel Liel originally published in Walla. You can read more about the poll at the Times of Israel.

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Changing the language from rationalisation to responsibility - by Barbara Swirski

This article by Adva Center (The Study of Israeli Society and for Social Justice and Equality) executive director Barbara Swirski was published in NIF's Ha'aretz Yom Kippur supplement, and was read by tens of thousands of Israelis.

adva.jpgNow that the government has spent three decades striving to downsize, following the neo-liberal model, perhaps the time has come to transition from the language of rationalization to that of responsibility. Downsizing means budget cuts, privatization, and exchanging worker-employer relations for consumer-product relations. Responsibility, by contrast, means ensuring adequate funding for social services; reversing the privatization trend; and a return to worker-employer relations, so that Israel continues to be a welfare state rather than one promoting the wellbeing and profit of labor contractors.

How can we bring about the change? Here are two examples: retirement savings plans  and healthcare.

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Difference and indifference - by Anat Hoffman

This article by Anat Hoffman was published in NIF's Ha'aretz Yom Kippur supplement, and was read by tens of thousands of Israelis.

anat-hoffman-article.jpgFellow Israelis, let me tell you how it came to pass. We were indifferent, and allowed an extreme minority within Judaism to build partitions amongst us. A partition is not necessarily bad; it's fine, as long as it furthers empowerment and solidarity; as long as she who is behind it enjoys equality amid difference, not if she is excluded and silenced by sheer force. 

You need to know how to construct a partition. Take for example the mother of all Israeli partitions: the mehitza separating men from women at the Western Wall. That barrier now rises above human height, requiring grannies to climb up on plastic chairs to glimpse their grandson having his Bar Mitzvah. Over the years, the partition was moved, in order to expand the men's section at the expense of the women's; the men's section is now five times larger than the women's section. 

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Israeli High Court Strikes Down "Anti-Infiltrator" Asylum Seeker Detention Law

OverturnedFollowing a petition by NIF grantees, the Israeli High Court of Justice has struck down Israel's "anti-infiltration" law, which allowed to state to detain asylum seekers for three years without processing them.

NIF grantees the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and the Migrant Workers Hotline were among those involved in the petition.

The Times of Israel reported that:

There are currently more than 50,000 African migrants in Israel. Some 1,750 are being held under the amendment, most of them in a detention center in southern Israel. The court ruled that each case must now be examined individually, and set a 90-day deadline for the process.

Justice Miriam Naor, deputy president of the High Court, said the ruling could be Israel’s “finest hour,” because it would force the country to find “humane solutions… that match not only international law, but also the Jewish worldview.”

The ruling will create “a difficult task” that Israel will perhaps “have to face against its will,” Justice Uzi Fogelman said, but “we must remember that those who come to our shores… are entitled to the right to liberty and the right to dignity that the Basic Law grants to any person as a human being.”

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Do you want to change the community conversation about Israel?

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Why not volunteer with NIF Australia? We're looking for two volunteers -- one to help us with our communications, and another to help run projects and events we have in the pipeline.

An Israel built on social justice, common humanity and freedom

NIF's Recent Achievements - August, 2013

Here is an update on just some of NIF and its grantees' latest achievements.

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Supporting the peace negotiations

President Obama announced this week that Israelis and Palestinians have resumed direct final status negotiations, and that Ambassador Martin Indyk is leading the U.S. team assisting the parties.

Martin grew up in Australia, was twice US Ambassador to Israel, and became co-patron with Ronni Kahn of NIF Australia when it was established two years ago.

His appointment as U.S. Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations, and his acceptance in that role by both the Israelis and the Palestinians, is eloquent testimony to the unique experience and insight that he brings to the very difficult but necessary work of these negotiations, with the goal of achieving two secure states for two peoples.

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