An inspiring look at the challenges facing modern Israel

July 30, 2018 by Sharon Berger
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Five Australians joined fellow young activists in their 20s and 30s from the US, Canada and the UK for an in-depth and intense trip exploring some of the most pressing issues in Israeli society today.

The Naomi Chazan Fellowship is a chance for young professionals to participate in a study tour by the New Israel Fund (NIF), during which they meet local Israeli activists and learnt more about the NIF’s strategic issue areas, including religious freedom, human rights and democracy, social and economic justice, shared society and ending racism, and the impact of the Occupation.

Fellows met with a variety of grantees funded by NIF and participated in localised tours to better understand the complexities of the region. The group was mainly in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Yerucham and Hebron.

They heard directly from Israeli activists and lawyers involved in battling against the recently passed Nation-State Law and the Surrogacy Law which excludes single men and gay couples. They even had a chance to participate in a demonstration in central Tel Aviv against the passage of the new Nation-State Basic Law, alongside thousands of Israelis.

One of the speakers they heard from was former Knesset Deputy Speaker Naomi Chazan about the “democratic slippage” that is happening in Israel.

“It was really interesting to hear from someone as experienced and knowledgeable as Naomi Chazan about the state of democracy in Israel today and some of the challenges in terms of Zionism and democracy and the intersection of these two,” said Ryan Kaplan, a Naomi Chazan fellow from Sydney.

One of the group’s tours included visiting Kiryat Arba and Hebron with Breaking the Silence, former IDF soldiers who speak out about their military service and the problems arising from the 51 year occupation of the West Bank.

Their guide was subjected to ongoing ​harassment​ by settlers who attempted to drown out her tour by blasting music, loud whistling and invade her personal space. Later in the tour Jewish children from Hebron threw water at the group and even small pebbles.

The visit was very confronting but showed the extreme elements in the settler community of Hebron who, despite heavy police and army presence, are able to act almost without impunity. Just a few days later the same guide had ​paint​ poured on her by extremists in Hebron during a similar tour.

Once the fellows return to Australia they will be creating local programming to share some of their experiences with their peers and local communities in Sydney and Melbourne and work to broaden the conversation around Israel.

“As the Naomi Chazan Fellowship becomes increasingly international with participants from four countries it gives the group a unique opportunity not only to learn from local Israeli activists but also from their peers across North America and the UK,” said NIF Australia Executive Director Liam Getreu.


3 Responses to “An inspiring look at the challenges facing modern Israel”
  1. Eion Isaac says:

    It is good that there are freely expressed views in news feeds and extremism is ugly .

    • Eleonora Mostert says:

      Seems this group N.I.F. is only getting a one sided version. Are they members for the BDS and Isis, Hamas, P.A. etc. Are they even Jewish??? Do they really understand what is happening here? Who’s attacking who? Guess this mob also believes that the Muslims are the rightful owners f the God given land of Israel to His chosen people the Jews/Hebrews. Parents get you kids out of the schools that don’t teach the truth.

    • Eleonora Mostert says:

      Seems these young people are only getting a one sided teaching experience from self hating Jewish Teachers, or is this a BDS school affiliated with Hamas, P.A. Isis etc.
      How’s invading or occupying/settling who’s country. There is no such nation as Palestinians or a land called Palestine unless you are referring to Judea and Sumeria.

      There’s nothing wrong with the new law either. Who’s Bombing Israel, who’s burning Israel, who’s terrorizing who??? Get your heads out of your butts, look at the facts/history alone… not your idiot teachers. Shame on all of you traitors to God and country.

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