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Hopes and Fears

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"It was the best of times and the worst of times."

Please forgive the cliché. I'm writing from not-so-sunny London, where I'm visiting our thriving UK affiliate, a few days after concluding the New Israel Fund board of directors meeting in Jerusalem. The board, our senior staff and many of our International Council members spent several days in deep discussion about the latest developments in Israel and NIF's long-term strategic response, along with some site visits for our work.

We are, as befits people who understand the long arc of social change, optimistic. The recent elections demonstrated that the ultra-nationalist, ultra-religious right has overreached, and that while their political base may be strong, it is not the majority in Israel. The ongoing coalition discussions may result in a more moderate and more democratic government and Knesset. President Obama's visit to Israel next month should spur a better, more values-driven and productive relationship between Israel and its closest ally.

Our optimism is tempered by our concerns. As former NIF president Naomi Chazan said during our board meeting, the New Israel Fund is flourishing. Israel is not. The growing gap between rich and poor, the increasing evidence of racism and exclusion from the schools to the soccer fields, and the rigid refusal to recognize non-Orthodox Jews as equals in theory and practice are at the top of our agenda. And we are thinking through some real strategic change within the New Israel Fund to deal with these and other issues that challenge Israel's democratic and pluralistic future.

In 2012, we again increased the number of our supporters and the resources you provided for our work. Allow me to again thank you for the faith you have in the courage of the activists we assist and the organizations we support, and in our emerging leadership of those who believe in a liberal and democratic Israel.

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$250 million to Israeli social change groups since 1979.