Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The New Israel Fund makes a mistake

The New Israel Fund (NIF) is a Jewish Non-Government Organization (NGO) that operates in Israel. Like many such organizations, its income comes primarily—if not exclusively—from donors. Without those donors, the NIF—like many of its peers throughout the NGO world--might not exist.

The NIF may be unique. In an Israel where many ‘good-works’ groups exist almost exclusively because of non-paid volunteers, NIF is the 800-pund gorilla who wears Parada, not Thrift-shop specials. Over the past 30 years, it has doled out something like 200 million US dollars to more than 800 organizations in Israel (NGO Monitor, September 2, 2012). In a small country like Israel, that kind of cash carries a lot of clout (“Where Does the New Israel Fund's Money Go?”, The Algemeiner, September 23, 2014).

According to its Homepage, NIF uses that money for good deeds. Primarily, it’s used to make Israel a ‘liberal, pluralistic and just society’ (ibid). The NIF distributes its collected monies, it says, ‘to build a better Israel’ (ibid).

Not everyone agrees with that sentiment. Some believe that NIF works ‘to undermine the very foundations of the State of Israel’ (ibid). Some argue that those who work for NIF are too often aggressively anti-Israel (ibid).

The NIF denies it is anti-Israel.

The NIF is very rich. It gives out a lot of money in Israel. It doesn’t reveal much about where its money goes—or where it came from. The NIF is also very sensitive about criticism. It will sue those who criticize it too sharply (“Hey, NIF! Criticism is a Democratic Right”, Jerusalem Post, February 4, 2010). For an organization that appears to some to work full-time to criticize Israel, it seems too often to have a rather thin skin (ibid).

The NIF is in the news again. But it isn’t being criticized. It seems that, despite its position as the 800-pound gorilla in Israel’s NGO universe, it isn’t satisfied with its progress. It isn’t satisfied with how much money it receives. It wants more.

NIF has a vision. It sees Israel as a country under assault. It believes that Israel’s pluralist, democratic nature is at risk—and that risk, it believes, is growing (“Rebranded New Israel Fund adapts right-wing tools”, Times of Israel, October 6, 2014). It believes that individuals with undemocratic views have accumulated too much power in Israel.

The NIF acknowledges that Israel was originally established to be both a Jewish homeland and a democracy (NIF Homepage, ‘New Initiatives for Democracy’). But it appears in my opinion to be extremely concerned, perhaps even alarmed, that the Jewish part of Israel now means more to Israeli Jews than ‘democracy’. According to the Times of Israel, the NIF wants to ‘rebrand’. It wants to stop that ‘Jewish’ assault.

To this end, it has created a ‘New Initiatives for Democracy’ campaign. Its goal with this campaign is to create greater equality and democracy in Israel (if you wish to support these ‘initiatives’, please note that NIF Board Members have agreed to match every donation you make, up to 500,000 USD).

NIF wants to ‘return Israel to its liberal roots’ (ibid). You may note that the NIF doesn’t say it has the same concern for Israel’s Jewish roots. In fact, the words, ‘Jewish’ or ‘Jewish roots’ or ‘religious roots’ are nowhere to be found in its description of its ‘New Initiatives’ goals.

NIF makes a mistake. Israel doesn’t exist today because it’s a ‘democracy’. Jews didn’t return to this desert land to re-establish Israel’s sovereignty after a nearly 2,000-year hiatus in order to create ‘democracy’ in the Middle East. ‘Democracy’ isn’t what brought us back to Israel. The Jewish dream of our Divinely-granted Jewish homeland brought us back.

NIF makes a serious mistake. Israel will not survive by embracing a Leftist definition of ‘democracy’. Israel won’t survive by dropping its ‘Jewishness’ for ‘democracy’.

Israel will survive the way Jews have always survived: by committing to follow the Torah.

How do we know this? We know it because those Jews who,  four generations ago, replaced their Jewishness with a political ideology aren’t Jewish any more. Those Jews have few if any Jewish great-grandchildren.

But those Jews who, four generations ago, embraced the Torah with love and devotion—and transmitted that love and devotion to their children—now have many, many, many Jewish great-grandchildren.

The NIF is mistaken. Israel doesn’t survive because it works at ‘democracy’. It survives because Jews recognize the power and the love of the G-d of Israel.

The G-d of Israel has a Jewish Story He wants you to see. That Story is the unfolding Redemption of the Jewish people.

Will the NIF’s effort to promote ‘democracy’ in place of ‘Jewishness’ in Israel play a role in fulfilling Jewish Biblical prophecy?

Stay tuned. This Story is just beginning.

The G-d of Israel won’t disappoint you.

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