“The Arab public in Israel long ago stopped being a minority…The task of building bridges and forging a sense of partnership between Jews and Arabs is for me a human, Jewish and Zionist task of the first order.” President Reuven Rivlin, February 8, 2015
For decades, one of Ameinu’s primary goals has been to support Israeli civil society as it struggles for peace, democracy and social justice for all in the Jewish state. A founding member of the InterAgency Task Force on Arab Israeli Issues – along with partners like the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the ADL, Jewish Federations of North America, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the New Israel Fund and Hadassah – Ameinu serves this key aspect of our mission through Task Force educational programming and a modest grants program for projects that support the Task Force’s goals.
On a trip to Israel last month, I had the great pleasure of meeting several of our longstanding partners, who are working to create a shared society for Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel. I came away deeply impressed with their passion, their commitment to assisting under-represented communities in Israel and their dedication to help create a truly shared existence for all of Israel’s citizens.
In past years, Ameinu has raised funds and worked with Israeli partners who share our values: Dror Israel, YEDID, AJEEC-NISPED, BINA, Givat Haviva, among others. In September of last year – at the conclusion of a several month-long planning process – Ameinu decided to create a more organized structure for this work – the Ameinu Peace and Democracy Fund (APDF). Our vision for the APDF is to seek increased resources to expand our ability to work in partnership with Israelis to develop shared society and peace and fulfill the principles of Israel’s Declaration of Independence — “complete equality of social and political rights to all inhabitants.”
From my trip, it was clear that few issues in Israeli society are more pressing than the challenge of creating a shared society, coexistence, and a truly shared existence between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens. For this reason, I’m extremely pleased to announce the first allocations under the APDF:
• Kibbutz Mishol, an urban Kibbutz in Upper Nazareth, to support Bet Shoko Open Club for Arab and Jewish at-risk youth. The club empowers and integrates Israeli Arab children through cross-cultural educational activities, teaching of elementary Arabic to the Jewish youth, and creation of a pluralistic and democratic children’s society through joint work, play, celebration, dialog and conflict resolution.
• Dror Israel Movement to support youth movement activities in Kfar Manda and other Arab towns in the Galilee. This program develops young leaders in the Arab Israeli community and connects them with Jewish youth activists from nearby Jewish communities who are part of the Zionist youth movement.
• AJEEC-NISPED, a Negev-based Jewish-Arab group, to promote a culture of volunteerism by the community and for the community. The Arab Bedouin Volunteer Center (known as “The Tent”) was established to strengthen communal responsibility and active citizenship, especially within Arab Bedouin society in the Negev. Tent programs promote social change and empower the community and its development as an integral part of civil society in Israel.
We look forward to continuing to build the APDF in the months and years to come; to strengthening our partnerships with Israelis committed to a vision of peace, democracy and social justice; and, through our US-based activities like the InterAgency Task Force, the Kibbutz Program Center, and the Voices Fellowships, to facilitate the building of a sustained US-Israeli movement for shared society.