“THE STATE OF ISRAEL … will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it 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; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.”
When David Ben-Gurion read these words sixty-six years ago in Tel Aviv, under imminent threat of war from its new neighbours, Israel declared a daring vision for itself.
Ben-Gurion and Israel’s founders knew they faced enormous challenges in navigating the tension between the imperatives of creating a Jewish homeland built on Jewish values, and establishing a living democracy, where non Jewish citizens would participate fully and equally. Israel’s vision of itself as a democracy would not be easily and instantly realised.
Today it is appropriate to reflect on this and celebrate Israel’s remarkable economic, scientific, educational and cultural success and also its achievements as a democracy in an unstable and undemocratic region, particularly given all that the country has been through – including giant waves of immigration, constant hostility, and times of economic uncertainty.
But, at the same time, we acknowledge that much work is still required to safeguard the rights of all of Israel’s inhabitants in the way the founders envisaged.
This is the work of the New Israel Fund in Israel – and the work that we are so proud to be part of. It’s the work that does its part to ensure that Israel remains a vibrant society, for the next 66 years, and even longer into the future.
We are providing links to some interesting articles you can take a look at – original audio of Ben-Gurion reading the declaration, and an op-ed from former Knesset speaker Avrum Burg on the role of Independence Day and Nakba Day in the Israeli consciousness, an important piece particularly as peace talks have again faltered and the viability of a functioning and independent Palestinian state seems as elusive as ever.
Ha’aretz also produced a list of ‘66 women you should know’, to mark 66 years of Israeli independence – it contains half-a-dozen women from the NIF family. Included is Sharon Abraham-Weiss, the new director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), NIF’s flagship grantee. Hagai El-Ad, well known to us, has left ACRI to become director of B’tselem, an organisation seed-funded by NIF in the 1980s. To mark his last day at ACRI, Hagai wrote an op-ed for the NIF website.
Wishing you a happy Yom Ha’atzmaut.
President, NIF Australia
Executive Director, NIF Australia
Photo: "Proud" by Chaim Tzvi/Flickr (Creative Commons 2.0)