Extraordinary Achievements in a Challenging Time - New Israel Fund Australia

Extraordinary Achievements in a Challenging Time

As Israelis continue to protest against corruption and inequality and Americans go to the polls in one of their most important elections in recent memory, it’s fitting that we pause and consider the challenging moment that faces freedom, equality and democracy all around the world, and what we can do to put things back on the right path.

Even in this environment, we are seeing extraordinary achievements, a few of which you can see below. This important work safeguards the just and democratic Israel we all want to see.

NIF is there every day, partnering with grassroots initiatives to make sure they’re well funded, properly resourced and given every chance of success. Thank you for working with us to make it happen.

A new healthcare plan for a new era

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit our partners at Physicians for Human Rights – the main organisation providing refugees and people seeking asylum with medical treatment – the way they delivered their services had to change quickly.

Not only did PHR have to continue providing important services through its open clinic in Yafo – helping more than 2,000 patients during lockdown – it also needed to mobilise help for people seeking asylum to ensure continuity of care in other facilities. This meant providing transport for patients who needed treatment like dialysis but could no longer travel on public transport because of the lockdown. 

Because of the economic crisis which accompanied the lockdown, PHR also had to work with individuals to ensure that their private health insurance – usually covered by their employer – would not be cut off. Over a normal year, PHR would receive about 100 requests for help. In just a few weeks in March, more than 200 people came forward seeking assistance.

PHR was also instrumental in providing important public health information to workers who don’t speak Hebrew. The videos they produced – in Ukranian, Thai and Tigrinya – helped those communities understand the Covid-19 outbreak. The videos were viewed more than 5,000 times.

Helping pensioners access funds amid lockdown

For a number of years, NIF Australia has funded the public hotline initiative run by our flagship grantee, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

Each year, the hotline takes in thousands of calls, particularly from the elderly, women, minority groups and the LGBT community, as they report instances of discrimination, harrassment and racism. ACRI provides assistance to more than 1,000 individuals, referring others onto partner organisations with niche experience in particular areas.

In the first week of the Covid-19 lockdown, dozens of elderly pensioners contacted ACRI about their inability to go to the post office to withdraw their social security benefits. Following ACRI’s intervention, the postmaster general promised that 40,000 prepaid credit cards would be distributed to at-risk populations and delivered to their homes via courier, ensuring all Israelis could afford to buy food and medication and keep a roof over their heads.

Other cases ACRI took on involved assisting an Ultra-Orthodox mother who was unable to register her daughter at school because of her North African background, helping two Palestinian LGBT youth who fled into Israel to escape death threats, and responding to more than 20 complaints from pensioners seeking to remain in public housing with access to rental assistance.

Together, these cases show the importance of strong civil society organisations acting as a check and balance on the government and other large institutions.

Ensuring equality for women

Once again, our partners at the Israel Religious Action Centre (IRAC) and Israel Women’s Network (IWN) stood up to the discrimination against women, this time on planes and in the workforce.

The IWN’s successful legal action ensured that a female employee of the health insurance company “Leumi” would be compensated for suffering wage discrimination. Not only will the compensation of more than AU$70,000 cover back pay for the period where she was paid less than her male counterparts, it will also serve as a reminder to all businesses that gender wage equality is a crucial social and workplace issue.

In another case, IRAC sued British airline EasyJet for demanding she give up her seat on a flight to accommodate an Ultra-Orthodox man and his son who refused to sit next to her because of her gender.

There’s simply no reason for women – or anyone, for that matter – to be humiliated and insulted in the way Melanie Wolfson was. Following similar successful cases against El Al, we hope there’ll be the same result ensuring gender equality on all flights to and from Israel.