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Our Focus Areas

The New Israel Fund Australia Foundation is a leading organisation committed to social justice, human rights and democracy in Israel. We work with Israelis experiencing poverty, discrimination and injustice to create a more inclusive, tolerant and equal society.

Based on the vision of the country’s founders, we work towards an Israel that is “based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel… [and] complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”

Working with the New Israel Fund, which has been empowering civil society in Israel for more than 40 years, NIF Australia makes real, positive changes to the lives of everyday Israelis. Since its inception, the New Israel Fund has used donations from Jewish communities in the US, England, Canada and elsewhere to provide over $200 million to more than 800 social justice and human rights organisations. Since our founding in 2011, NIF Australia has raised more than $2.5 million for this important work.

our focus areas
  • Defending human rights and democratic infrastructure

    Civil Rights

    We’re working to uphold the values of the Declaration of Independence, that Israel “will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”

    Israel’s almost 50-year control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem has left many people deprived of basic freedoms. Not only do they suffer from a lack of social and political rights, but poverty and discrimination are widespread, as compared to Israel.

    NIF works on the ground, ensuring that Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have access to justice, running water, sewerage and electricity, and appropriate funding for their school system.

    Spotlight: Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI)

    Since Israel took control of all of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War in 1967, the social and economic divide has only grown. Unlike Palestinians in the West Bank, Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are Israeli permanent residents, yet they have been neglected by successive local and national governments. For example, currently 84% of Palestinian children in East Jerusalem live below the poverty line. There is a severe shortage of of public services and infrastructure in East Jerusalem, including health, education, welfare and postal services, and water and sewage systems.

    Over the years, ACRI has intervened directly to the High Court of Justice on behalf of East Jerusalem residents, including when tens of thousands of residents were left without water for three weeks, and to correct years of inadequate investment in education that left 40,000 Palestinian students without access to classrooms or schooling.

  • Relieving poverty and economic inequality


    Israel today has one of the highest rates of poverty in the Western World. One-in-three children live below the poverty line, with almost 25% of the population living in poverty. Economic inequality is one of the highest rates amongst OECD nations.

    One of NIF’s priorities is ensuring that those who need it the most are able to access public housing. Through its funding of a number of organisations, legal representation is provided to some of Israel’s poorest to ensure they have access to this basic human right. This is done through organisations like ‘Tmura - The Anti-Discrimination Legal Centre’, through a unique strategy that uses tort law to pursue claims, as well as the ‘Israeli Organisation for Ethiopian Jews’, which runs training and education sessions for residents of poor residents of absorption centres.

    You can learn more about economic inequality and poverty in Israel by watching hit Israeli documentary series “Magash Hakesef”, which is available for streaming on our website.

    Spotlight: Hamaabara - Jerusalem Campaign for Housing Rights

    Located in Katamon, one of Jerusalem's disadvantaged neighbourhoods, the Maabara is a grassroots initiative that emerged after the 2011 ‘occupy’ social protests. Local residents have created a community centre aimed at addressing the lack of public housing, a serious problem for decades.

    A critical service Hamaabara provides to local residents is the Legal Rights Clinic, launched with the participation of students from the Hebrew University Law School. The clinic provides individual assistance on public housing rights, social security issues, employment and debt relief. In addition to legal consulting, individuals are accompanied to the various government offices to amplify their voices and ensure their rights are upheld.

  • Advancing the status of women

    The Ultra-Orthodox Rabbinate’s monopoly over personal status issues for Jews in Israel leaves many Jews -- those who cannot or do not affiliate with other streams of Judaism -- in a situation where their rights are infringed upon.

    NIF believes that freedom of – and from – religion are crucial to the survival of a just and democratic Israel. We fight for religious pluralism, and work to oppose the rabbinic hierarchy’s exclusion of women.

    In 1997, for example, demands began for gender segregated services on public buses between Jerusalem and Bnei Brak; at one point, there were 50 ‘mehadrin’ lines, that is, where women were forced to sit at the back of the bus, and those who resisted were subjected to harassment and intimidation. This soon extended to segregation in health clinics, post offices, and even sidewalks on Jerusalem streets.

    Spotlight: Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC)

    IRAC has been a recipient of NIF funds for 25 years. It works by using strategic litigation to ensure women are not disadvantaged or discriminated against.

    For example, in 2007 IRAC won a ruling in the High Court of Justice which stated that segregation of women on public buses in Israel is illegal. Each public bus must now carry a sign which ensures compliance with the law.

    IRAC’s work has brought increased attention to the issue of the status of women in Israeli society, as well as to the broader issues of religious pluralism and tolerance.

  • Addressing inequality in the Arab-Israeli community


    Making up a fifth of the Israeli population, Palestinian citizens of Israel, or Arab-Israelis, are among the most disadvantaged populations in Israel.

    For example, while 14% of Jewish families live in poverty, almost 50% of Palestinian families do so. Far fewer Palestinians, particularly women, have access to employment, and almost twice the number of Palestinians do not complete high school compared to Jewish-Israelis.

    Although many of these markers have improved over the years, there is still much work to be done, particularly in the Negev, where most of the Bedouin communities are concentrated. Around 100,000 Bedouin live in so-called ‘unrecognised villages’ where they are totally abandoned by the government. The villages lack access to running water and electricity, and are in constant threat of having their homes demolished, despite some of them having lived there for decades. In these unrecognised villages, the poverty rate exceeds 80%.

    Learn more about Bedouin communities in Israel in ‘The Other Haggadah’, our special supplement for the Pesach haggadah, which features a video interview with the director of NIF Shatil Be'er Sheva office, Sultan Abu Obaid

    Spotlight: Al-Hukok Centre

    The Al-Hukok Centre is the first specialist legal aid centre run by, and for, the Bedouin community in Israel. Virtually all of its work is funded by philanthropy, allowing the lawyers to work pro-bono for clients.

    One of Al-Hukok’s projects works directly with Bedouin in unrecognised villages to help them gain access to basic services like water, electricity, health and education services. Staff prepare and present cases before the Supreme Court, aiming to improve the lives of some of Israel’s poorest.

  • Rights for refugees and people seeking asylum


    Tens of thousands of people seeking asylum have journeyed to make their lives in Israel, many having heard of its democratic system and treatment of refugees. Currently, 43,000 Africans live in Israel having fled persecution in countries like Sudan and Eritrea, having made their way through Sinai to reach Israel. Most of them live in the Tel Aviv area.

    The Israeli government, however, has labeled them ‘infiltrators’, and many have been subject to sustained periods of detention. Unlike most other countries, even veteran asylum seekers, people who have been living and working in Israel for many years, can be taken into detention at any time.

    Refugees and people seeking asylum are among the most disadvantaged and discriminated against sector in Israel. The lack of certainty around their legal situation, relatively low incomes, and poor access to healthcare and welfare services makes them uniquely in need of support.

    Spotlight: Hotline for Refugees and Migrants

    The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants is Israel’s leading organisation advocating for the rights of people seeking asylum and refugees, working to advance vulnerable individuals, particularly those in detention, to uphold their rights.

    Over the years, the Hotline has aided and represented people seeking asylum through its important walk-in clinic. It has also led major petitions before the High Court of Justice that has seen the government’s ‘Anti-Infiltration Law’ overturned three times.

    In addition, Hotline’s impact litigation has secured the release from detention of countless people. It has also achieved refugee status for a number of people seeking asylum, which has served as community-wide precedents, thereby changing the lives of thousands of people.

  • Protecting the rights of vulnerable communities


    There are around 135,000 Ethiopian-Israelis, many having come in massive waves of immigration in the 1980s and 1990s. However, almost 40% have arrived since the year 2000.

    Poverty is widespread in the Ethiopian community, with around 39% of families living in poverty, compared with 14% of all Jewish families. Although the rate of Ethiopians finishing high school has improved in recent years, the community still lags behind, with only 48% graduating, compared to 60% of all Jewish teenagers. Rising housing costs has also disproportionately affected young Ethiopian-Israelis families.

    Other vulnerable communities in Israel include minority groups like immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

    Spotlight: Tebeka

    Translating as ‘advocate for justice’ in Amharic, Tebeka was started by Israel’s first Ethiopian Israeli attorneys and professionals in 2000 in order to safeguard the rights of Ethiopian immigrants and ensure that community members in need have access to quality legal services are comprehensive.

    Tebeka's legal department deals with Ethiopian-Israelis who suffer from discrimination in the workplace and public spaces, taking almost 1,000 cases each year in its seven branches across Israel. It also occasionally uses impact litigation as a strategy to reduce the marginalisation of the Ethiopian community.