Veteran U.S. organizational consultant and social change expert Emily McKay is used to working in war zones. So she wasn’t scared when she arrived in Be'er Sheva -- to offer a training session to social change organizations in the south on surviving the economic crunch -- to a hail of exploding rockets.
"I spent a lot of time in Sarajevo when they were shooting at people, including me. You do the work you need to do in your life and you don’t let things keep you from doing it," she said. ”My commitment has always been to build the non-profit sector in areas of conflict."
When McKay got a call from SHATIL director Rachel Liel telling her not to go to Be'er Sheva on December 31 after she heard rockets were falling there, McKay responded, "I'm already here."
McKay planned to spend her annual two weeks at SHATIL helping social change organizations cope with the economic crisis and indeed, she did conduct four trainings on the topic throughout the country, though she also spent time helping SHATIL staff and organizations cope with the reality of war.
"It's a terribly painful time for everybody, and it's hard for everyone to think of anything but the war," said McKay. "It's very hard for Israeli Arab SHATIL staff and activists with relatives in Gaza to say we may not agree, but we have the same values and we have to keep working together. I admire that."
"You can't change things in any country without a strong independent sector," she said. "That's what I've worked on all my life in America and that's what I work on here. There are a lot of people doing very important work here and as much as I teach, I learn things that help me in my own work." McKay is the director of Mosaica, the Center for Non-Profit Development and Pluralism in Washington DC. She has been volunteering two weeks a year at SHATIL and the organizations with which we work for 23 years.
"People who support SHATIL and the New Israel Fund should support them especially now because their work is hugely important and the work of building a better society can't stop because the economy is bad. It's the advocates who make sure that in tough times, people who are poor and disadvantaged don’t get forgotten. It's when things are toughest that protection of human and civil rights is most important.
"Its' God's work. It's good work. I'm glad to be part of it."