A new joint initiative of Israel's major social justice organizations has put social and economic justice on the agenda of the candidates and voters for the upcoming national elections. In 100 parlor meetings around the country, individuals are being educated on the issues and urged to demand clear policies in their party’s platforms. The campaign, Voting for Equality and Justice, is a SHATIL-initiated, non-partisan effort led by Israeli social change organizations with the support of NIF. Within a week of its launch, 15 parlor meetings have been organized by volunteers throughout the country. The campaign's platform calls for the right to:
• Food security including the recommendation that the state cancel the value added tax on food staples. A quarter of Israeli families suffer from food insecurity;
• Housing – despite the growing number of families that cannot afford housing, the government recently cut housing subsidies by 50 percent;
• Employment– more than 35 percent of salaried employees in Israel are paid the minimum wage or less;
• Health – one third of Israelis have to choose between health care and other basic needs such as food;
• Education – average eighth grade math scores on standardized tests this year were 44 out of 100; the educational gaps between different population groups are on the rise;
• Legal redress – half a million Israelis do not have the right to representation in legal proceedings in which they are involved;
• Unemployment compensation – in a time of skyrocketing unemployment, 75 percent of the unemployed are not entitled to government compensation;
• Culture – the Israeli government funds only 3.6 percent of the nation's cultural expenditures.
Twenty organziations are leading the campaign, including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Israel Women's Network (IWN), Community Advocacy, Rabbis for Human Rights and Achoti. Visit the campaign’s Hebrew language website here. The campaign is the product of Ichud-Yichud (Unity-Uniqueness), a network initiated by SHATIL to maximize the impact of social and economic justice organizations in Israel. It is the first major example of a newfound solidarity, cooperation and resource-sharing in the NGO sector devised to maximize impact in response to the financial crisis.
Ronit Heyd, coordinator of SHATIL's Social and Economic Justice Initiative said: "We are hearing a strong, shared voice reminding the Israeli public that despite the security situation, social and economic justice issues have to be at the top of our agenda."