Dear friends --
Last year, up to 400,000 Israelis took to the streets to call for “tzedek chevrati” – social justice. Recent polling confirms that more than 80% of Israelis support the protests against government policy on basic quality of life issues and the deterioration of public services.
These were not new issues for the New Israel Fund and organisations funded by NIF played a big part in the protests. NIF’s flagship grantee, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, recently published a report titled “Between Realisation and Dehydration” which catalogues the cutting of services and benefits by successive governments over the past three decades, with growing public concern about the resulting loss of dignity experienced by many Israelis.
Last weekend, as thousands gathered throughout the country to mark the first anniversary of last year’s protests, one man set himself alight in a desperate attempt to draw attention to “the humiliation that disenfranchised citizens go through day in and day out.” So while the protests have achieved some real gains, in many ways the change is only just beginning.
Daphni Leef, the woman who launched the social protests, said on Saturday that the activists' message hasn't changed: "We want a fair society," she said. “Suddenly, when people take to the streets they understand that they have power and that they are right.”
NIF and its capacity-building arm SHATIL are increasing support for social justice initiatives, including for a new organisation, the Israeli Social Movement, led by Stav Shaffir, one of the organisers of last year’s tent city on Rothschild Boulevard. ACRI and other NIF grantees are also playing key roles in protecting the right to protest and freedom of expression and assembly.
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President, New Israel Fund (Australia)