Here is an update on just some of NIF and its grantees' latest achievements.
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.
As part of its ongoing efforts to fight poverty through policy change, last week SHATIL played a leading role in bringing together over two hundred citizen activists and dozens of Knesset members to discuss ways to ensure that the national budget addresses the real needs of Israel's people.
“We all did our army service, and our kids served; yet we’re left without food,” said one activist on Wednesday, July 3rd, to the assembled group of lawmakers and NGO representatives.
Over one third of Israeli children live in poverty, according to the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute, and Israel has the highest poverty rate out of all OECD member nations. Proposed budget cuts to vital services would worsen this situation. For many social justice advocates, rising poverty and inequality represent a breakdown in social solidarity and a fundamental betrayal on the part of the government.
Religious law, social institutions and traditions in Israel have kept girls and women at a disadvantage in schools, in the workplace, in divorce cases, and as victims of violence. Israeli women in minority and disadvantaged groups have disproportionately high rates of unemployment, poverty, health problems and abuse of basic rights. The recent “modesty revolution” and increasing gender-segregation are of great concern to proponents of a pluralistic and democratic Israel.
At the same time, increasing public awareness is now mobilizing public action across the political and social spectrums, engendering new organizations committed to religious freedom and women's rights, and galvanizing veteran ones.
Justice Stephen Rothman AM and Justice Ronald Sackville AO, in Sydney, and Associate Professor Mark Baker and Robyne Schwarz AM, in Melbourne, have become inaugural members of NIF Australia’s Advisory Council.
It is intriguing to imagine what Israel's founders would think of Israel at 65. The changes in Israel over its short history have been extraordinary across every dimension. Economically, culturally, technologically, in medicine, agriculture and education, Israel's achievements belie its age, size and the enormous obstacles it has faced and continues to face.
Political issues tend to dominate discussion about Israel but each anniversary of Israel’s independence is a chance to celebrate the vision upon which Israel was founded -- of a democratic state in the land of Israel giving renewed life to Jewish national self-determination.
Dear friends --
As we near Pesach, it is timely to reflect on freedom. The haggadah tells the enduring story of the emergence of a free people from circumstances of dire affliction. The beautiful tradition of re-telling this story with family and friends each year has built a deep appreciation of freedom into the foundation of our history as a people. Over time, the Exodus has also become a powerful symbol of the yearning for freedom of all people.
International Women’s Day is a day of promise and celebration and we are encouraged and inspired by the extraordinary achievements of Israeli women in every sector of society, achievements all the more impressive in a region where women are widely disenfranchised and silenced. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the New Israel Fund and on challenges that remain.
NIF has been a leader in supporting Israel's women's rights organisations and networks, dating back to establishment of Israel's first Rape Crisis Centre network more than twenty years ago. It has lobbied for landmark legislation, including the Equal Employment Opportunity law, and has supported parties in precedent-setting court rulings. Its programmes empowering economically disadvantaged women are well established in inner cities, development towns and unrecognized Bedouin villages.
Having first become involved in 2010, New Israel Fund's flagship grantee, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), has written to Deputy Attorney General Shai Nitzan regarding the ongoing 'Prisoner X' case. A full copy of the letter is republished below, and available in Hebrew on ACRI's website.