Out Loud

  • Aloud and Clear

    11 April 2013

    April 11, 2013

    American and other overseas NIF supporters and Israeli NIF supporters share a set of values and a vision for Israel, but we don't always see all of our issues in exactly the same way. Pluralism and freedom of (and from) religion is a case in point. Some Israelis are bemused and a bit taken aback by how painful attempts by the state-sponsored rabbinical establishment to narrowly define "who is a Jew," and to enforce sexist rules about who can pray and how at the Kotel, the Western Wall, are to their American friends. Some Americans, on the other hand, do not fully appreciate how restrictive and offensive the almost total control of the same rabbinic establishment over life-cycle events -- from birth to marriage to burial -- is to their Israeli cousins.

    And sometimes something happens to remind us all that we are fighting the same fight. Last week police warned our partners at Women of the Wall that they were prepared to file charges against women for praying at the wall, including saying Kaddish, the memorial prayer for the dead, aloud.

    This is too much. It is time for all of us who care about justice in Jerusalem, wherever we live, to stand up with and for the Women of the Wall and the values of pluralism and equality that they stand for every month at the Kotel. I ask each of you to join me in signing a statement of support for these brave women, and to learn more about their struggle. Let them know that they are not alone.

    Even as I write this, Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky is submitting recommendations to the prime minister on how to accommodate the rights of women – and really, all non-Orthodox Jews -- at the Wall. Now is the time to make sure our voiced are heard, in Israel, Europe, North America and Australia. Our sisters in Jerusalem need us.

    Daniel Sokatch

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  • Keep Calm and Pray On

    14 March 2013

    14 March 2013

    "Keep Calm and Pray On." That was the motto this week as NIF-grantee Women of the Wall ushered in the Hebrew month of Nissan at the Western Wall with hundreds of supporters. Tamar Zandberg, Michal Rozin and Stav Shaffir, three newly elected members of Knesset, were right in front, leading the way for the entire group. Their presence helped keep the police at bay and, unlike in past months, no arrests occurred. The leadership displayed by these MKs was a true embodiment of the spirit of International Women's Day, celebrated just last week.

    And while that was happening in Jerusalem, 400 people gathered (“in the rain!” one of our staffers told me) at a solidarity event in New York, which was co-sponsored by NIF. 200 more gathered an event outside of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. This is a model of the spirit of the new Israeli-American partnership NIF and our allies are forging, one that recognizes that our struggles and our causes are connected. Activists in Israel know that their sisters and brothers in America have their back.

    The momentum displayed at these events is part of what I hope is a new trend in progress for the rights of women in Israel. The 19th Knesset has an unprecedented number of women, and many of them are courageous champions of our values. As is the custom in Israel, new members of the Knesset give speeches. Some of the speeches were terrific (check out Ruth Calderon's Talmud lesson, now something of an internet sensation), but one in particular blew me away. New Labor MK Merav Michaeli talked about her vision for Israel, and how vital it is for those who have power to stand up for those who don't. After the past three-plus years we've spent fighting scores of antidemocratic bills coming out of that very chamber, it was a beautiful thing to hear those words from the rostrum of the Knesset:


    Although our work is far from over, there has been significant progress in fighting for women’s rights. Our grantees are doing critical work, and not just on International Women’s Day. The new members of Knesset, coupled with the events of the past week, leave me feeling that maybe – just maybe - the tide on women’s rights in Israel is beginning to turn.

    Daniel Sokatch


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  • Restore American Jews' faith in Israel

    05 March 2013

    The last four years created an unprecedented and dangerous alienation between the Israeli leadership and liberal American Jewry.

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  • The Race of Victimhood and Incitement

    08 March 2013

    "The Race of Victimhood and Incitement"

    Thoughts for International Women’s Day from MK Merav Michaeli

    8 March 2013

    In honor of International Women’s Day, here is the inaugural speech of Member of Knesset Merav Michaeli (Labor) subtitled in English.  NIF is a non-partisan organization with no formal connection to Ms. Michaeli, but we believe the themes of her speech should resonate today – for women, for minorities, but most important, for the future of Israel as a shared and responsible society.

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  • A View from the New Knesset

    27 February 2013

    A View from the New Knesset

    Tamar Sandberg(Tamar Zandberg, a new Member of Knesset from the Meretz party, is our guest columnist this week.)

    What a couple of years we had! In the summer of 2011, I was marching in the streets, together with hundreds of thousands of Israelis, calling for a more just and equal society, one which cares for the weak and celebrates freedom and democracy. This was the most inspiring political moment Israel had in decades.

    Soon after, we were told that the protest has died. Crushed under the daily banalities of the Knesset and manipulated by "King Bibi," as some reporters began calling Prime Minister Netanyahu. The government seemed determined to hold on to the status quo on every front, isolating itself from the world and sowing fear and resentment among its own citizens.

    Then came the elections, with a result that could only signify a turning point. An unprecedented number of new members of Knesset, a record breaking representation of women (despite still being outrageously low) and a decreasing average age of MKs – all demonstrate the desire for a new era in Israeli politics.

    Make no mistake. There are more progressives in this Knesset, but also more members that support the settlements and still many that have little patience for the democratic principles on which Israel was founded. The clouds which have gathered over Israel in recent years are still there, but for the first time in a while, we also see hope. We see an opportunity. And that’s all we could have asked for.

    During the last Knesset term, we focused on blocking initiatives which threatened the most basic freedoms in Israel. We fought against the confrontational attitude our government has presented to the world, and against the moral corruption that the occupation has brought at home. Many of you have stood by us on those battles, and I can assure you that your voice was heard in Israel, loud and clear. Our success in the last elections is also your success.

    We could do even more now. We could answer the public call for change with a progressive vision of Israel: A country which provides for all its citizens, a place which views cultural variety and difference of opinions not as a threat but as its source of strength; A state which promotes tolerance and treat all people and religious with respect – including all members of the Jewish people; a nation which can replace the urge to conquer with a desire to care. And most urgent of all: A country which doesn’t deprive the freedom of another people.

    It won’t be easy. We are still faced with many – including some members of the future government – who do not share our values. Even among those who believe in change, some view this change in a very different way that we do. We need all the help we can get. I am sure that we will find you continuing your support for a democratic and caring Israel, because you know that Israel deserves better than what the last four years have offered. As the last elections have showed, Israelis know that too.


    MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz)

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Israel's dilemma: Who can be an Israeli?

By Daniel Sokatch and David N. Myers

13 January 2014