Reflections on the 2017/2018 Activism Fellowship
Over the past twelve months NIF’s 2017/2018 New Gen Activism fellows have been on an incredible journey of discovery and learning. From an immersive eight day trip to Israel meeting and connecting with Israeli activists, to skills training and events organising back in the UK, the programme has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. As their fellowship year draws to a close, our fellows reflect on what the programme has meant to them.
The New Israel Fund fellowship programme allowed me to mobilize on my own vision of Zionism from the position of a British Jew, providing an outlet for me to reconcile these two aspects of my identity. Whilst Israel exists as a huge component of diasporic Jewish identity, so too do the values of the liberal democracies in which most diaspora Jews live. Bridging the dissonance that has emerged between the two has been central to my fellowship journey.
There’s no doubt that Jews living outside Israel have to live with the repercussions of government activity in Israel, albeit in a different way to Israelis. Harmonizing tensions between the Jewish and democratic natures of the State of Israel has therefore become a crucial part of my responsibility as a British Jew. Through the year, I met many people who grapple with nuance and contradiction and difficulty every single day but who do not let cognisance of complexity paralyse them. The fellowship has revolutionised my understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the narratives within it.
The fellowship enabled me to deepen my understanding of Israeli society, connect with Israeli activists, and strengthen my commitment to Israel. Our eight-day trip to Israel and the West Bank in July last year, touring Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Hebron and Nazareth, connecting everywhere with NIF grantees and activists, challenged and inspired me. Together with Livia and Tommer I was able to build on that experience to run a series of great events back in the UK, focusing on human rights in the West Bank, the identity of Palestinian citizens of Israel, and Israel’s refugee crisis. It was really meaningful to know that we were bringing new knowledge and perspectives to young people in our communities.
The fellowship has, for me, genuinely been life-changing, as thanks to the skills, networks and experience which it helped me to develop, I have now joined NIF’s staff as their engagement and outreach co-ordinator, and will be running this year’s fellowship program. It’s been an incredible journey, and I can’t wait to join next year’s cohort on their journey.
Learning from the New Israel Fund and its grantees – both while on the trip to Israel and since returning – has not only given me a greater appreciation of the challenges the Jewish state faces as it enters its eighth decade, but has also shown me how many Israeli leaders and activists there are working to make Israel a more equal and democratic country.
Thanks to the fellowship, I have been filled with new optimism for Israel’s future, and a determination to do what I can from the diaspora to ensure Israel lives up to the aspirations of its founders.
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