I would like to remind you of transformative time in my life, and that of Israel’s recent history. In the summer of 2011, I took to the streets of Tel Aviv to join and eventually lead a protest movement that grew to include hundreds of thousands of Israelis, young and old, and tent camps in cities across the country. While the spark that launched the protests was the prohibitive cost of housing in Israel that was crippling opportunities for young Israelis, the true goal of our movement was much more. In my opinion, the more profound, sociological cause of the protest was a struggle for the true definition of Zionism. We knew that our vision of justice in Israel – the Zionist dream – required us to fight for security, equality and democracy for all Israelis.
We also knew that this struggle was not one for us alone. Since we were setting out to take back Zionism and redefine what type of homeland we wanted Israel to be, we looked for partners in the Diaspora who were committed to our vision of the Zionist dream. Our friends at Ameinu were there with us from the start because they understood that fulfilling Zionism required much more than just the establishment of a Jewish state, but tireless effort to make Israel a land of equality, opportunity, compassion and security for all.
Ameinu, and our friends of the progressive Zionist movement, were there to help our Israeli social protest movement in our time of need. With Ameinu’s help we got our story out to the public to understand our campaign to reclaim Zionism. With Ameinu’s help we came to the United States and directly engaged the Jewish community at the grassroots and leadership levels to join our movement for change in Israel.
In 2013 I entered the Knesset as a member of the Labor Party and took my seat as the youngest member ever elected. I also took my seat with the same Zionist vision I had on the streets. I was committed that Israeli policy and law serve the goals of equality and security. And so since my election I have fought for equal access to health care and housing, fair taxation, democratic rights and equality for all of Israel’s citizens who are part of our shared society, and pension and public services to care for today’ elderly while giving younger generations of workers confidence that a social safety net will be there for them when they need it.
In the Knesset I have learned two important lessons. First, that lack of money will always be given as the excuse for not taking on vital social justice challenges. But second, that the first one is a lie. In reality, the government holds a secret pipeline of money transfers that makes Israeli taxpayers’ shekels political money, which too often is spent on sectorial interest groups and corruption. The government uses this secret pipeline to cut budgets for social services, and in order to fund a distorted, unequal set of priorities, far from the public eye. This is how, for example, the government transferred 1.2 billion shekels as a bonus to the settlements, while the periphery of Israel, the Negev and the Galille, could only beg to get that kind of support. I am committed to building a worldwide Zionist movement for security and equality. And once again, I need turn no further than my dear friends at Ameinu.
Ameinu is deeply engaged in supporting the social and economic justice sector in Israel through advocacy, education, technical assistance and resource development. Ameinu works closely with local partners to promote access to education for disadvantaged communities, address the needs of Bedouins in the Negev region, address disparities in access to economic development for the poor, promote a shared society through Arabic language and coexistence programming, defend the environment through ecological education and advocate for a vision that unifies Jewish commitment to Zionism and social justice.
And in the security arena, Ameinu is dedicated to promoting a progressive vision of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Instead of the destructive movement for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), I have long called for engagement to address our regional security challenges. Ameinu is arming liberal and progressive faculty, students, workers, religious leaders and others with the tools they need to create a rational solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. Ameinu successfully battles BDS while engaging our people in support of a future of peace, justice, reconciliation and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.
For me, and for my friends at Ameinu, these issues are intimately linked. The Knesset’s dirty deals and corrupt funding, which transfers our money for narrow political interests and special interest groups – deprives Israelis of vital public health, welfare, transportation and education services, along with funding for particularly vulnerable areas like the communities of Israel’s south.
I hope you will join me in personally committing to this international Zionist movement so that we, together, can make the goals of security and equality in Israel a reality.
With warm personal regards.
Member of Knesset
To read Ameinu’s response to Stav’s letter, CLICK HERE
Stav Shaffir is the youngest Israeli Knesset member and was a leader of the 2011 Israeli social justice protests. She is also a former journalist, musician and social activist. Stav was a member of the small group of organizers and unofficial leaders of Israel’s biggest-ever protest, focusing on social services, equality and democracy. She eventually rose to become spokesperson of the movement. In the latest Labor Party primary elections Stav placed second on the list for the upcoming general elections.