Meet the people behind the projects, people whose work with Shatil has empowered them to make Israel a better, fairer society for all.
Tsur Mishal, Eco-social Entrepreneur
Tsur Mishal, a former Shatil Everett Fellow for Social Justice, co-initiated and now directs Ecofilm North: Local Festival for Global Change, a Green Action project held in Rosh Pina and Sakhnin. The festival focused on the theme of sustainable and egalitarian development of the Galilee after the 2006 Second Lebanon War, and provided a forum for the discussion of the impact of the war on environmental issues. In addition to social and environmental films from around the world, Ecofilm North featured discussions with directors, guided hikes, an eco-fair, street theater, and a photography exhibit. Says Tsur: “Shatil’s Everett internship gave me the tools to actualize my ideas and provided me with varied perspectives on social change, which ultimately influenced my professional development.”
Yotam Avizohar, Director, Israel Bicycle Association
When he started to work in public planning, architect Yotam Avizohar came face-to-face with the fact that planners in Israel do not take the public into consideration, despite all the pronouncements to the contrary. A lifelong nature lover, he began to volunteer at the Israel Bicycle Association and later coordinated planning projects for the association.
“I didn’t have the training or the tools for the work I was doing,” says Yotam, who now directs the association. “From Shatil I’ve learned community organizing, how to work with the media and with a board of directors, how to lobby, how to build coalitions, how to draw up a budget – everything I need to know for my work. In Shatil courses, I also connect with other activists. Shatil helped us grow from a local Tel Aviv organization to a national one with a country-wide agenda.”
With guidance from Shatil, Yotam’s organization recently convinced Israel Railways to allow passengers to bring bicycles onto trains. Israel Bicycle Association has also lobbyed for legislation which would encourage people to use their bicycles for transportation – by creating bike lanes and by providing economic incentives for people who ride to work. “Bicycles are a healthy, affordable, and environmentally and socially sound alternative to cars. We are concerned not only with bicycles but also with the the creation of a vibrant civil society. Shatil is leading the way.”
“We always knew we were coming to Jerusalem (Zion),” says Shlomo of his childhood in Ethiopia. At 12, he began the month-long trek to Sudan, experiencing hunger and thirst and the deaths of family and friends. “I will never forget the words of a dying boy my age,” says Shlomo. “He said, ‘Promise me that you will write to my parents and tell them not to come to Sudan. Tell them it’s only a dream.’ ”
After serving in the IDF, Shlomo earned a BA in psychology and an MA in management from Haifa University. He helped found the Ethiopian Students Union (ESU), where he first became acquainted with Shatil. Today, Shlomo advises the ESU and other Ethiopian organizations. “Shatil changed me,” he says. “My narrow view of the world widened. I became sensitive to issues of equality and social justice.” Under Shlomo’s stewardship, Shatil’s Assistance to Ethiopian Immigrants Project helped Ethiopian Israelis move from passivity to activism, empowering them to develop a social consciousness and to assume responsibility for their community. Shlomo hopes that one day the Ethiopian community and native Israelis will have a relationship of respect and equality, and “that a person won’t be judged by his color skin, his culture or because he’s different.”
Elisheva Katz: From Social Worker to Policy Maker
As a child, Elisheva Katz imbibed the importance of helping others from her religious family and became acommunity social worker focusing on helping immigrants to help themselves. After participating with municipal colleagues in a Shatil course run in collaboration with the Haifa Municipality, the Ministry of Welfare and the Social Economic Academy, A Socioeconomic Platform for Conscious Action, Elisheva feels she is now in a position to help not only her clients but also her colleagues – and herself. “The course transformed our thinking,” she says. “It showed us that the phenomena we see in the field are a result of social and economic policy decisions. I always assumed decisions were made exclusively by the policymakers. I learned that I, an ordinary citizen, could influence policy.”
As a field project for the course, Elisheva and her colleagues are organizing workshops for fellow staff to better understand their employment rights and to expand their horizons. “With guidance from Shatil, we put our employees through an empowerment process that they can then use to empower their clients in the area of employment: to articulate their vision, to think about change, to discover the diamond in each of them.” Partly as a result of changes she underwent in the course, Elisheva decided to stop complaining about the social workers union and run for office. As a newly elected member of the secretariat, she is pushing for greater transparency and responsiveness…changes she is beginning to see implemented. “The course was so successful,” she says, “that now our goal is for everyone in the department to participate.”
Elyasaf Assulin, Economic and Social Policy Shapers Training Course
As the youngest Fellow in Shatil’s Economic and Social Policy Shapers Training Course, Elyasaf Assulin enjoys the “rare opportunity to learn and work with really good people in the public sector, who want to simultaneously work for social change and to influence government decisions.” Elyasaf is a budget coordinator in the Ministry of Absorption, and for his course practicum, he is building a data base of all government budget allocations for Ethiopian Jews. The project is bringing him face-to-face with government inefficiency and driving home the need for change.
The eighteen Fellows are divided between public-sector officials and students of economics and public policy. According to Elyasaf, interaction with the Fellows has strengthened his principles and clarified how he wants to live his life. The Fellows have become a close-knit group, consulting with one another on matters unrelated to the course and getting together socially. A native of Kiryat Gat, Elyasaf holds a B.A. in philosophy, economics and political science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is now studying for his Master’s in Public Policy. “Shatil is a catalyst. So many organizations owe their existence to Shatil,” he says. “I would like to see many more bodies like Shatil working for social change and co-existence.”
Haim was forced to close his small business during Israel’s prolonged recession. Burdened by increasing family debt, Haim, his wife, and their three children were evicted from their apartment and left homeless on the streets of Beersheva. When Haim applied for public housing, he encountered a series of bureaucratic obstacles that effectively prevented him from exercising his rights.
After months of frustration, Haim decided he could no longer rely on the government and met with consultants from Shatil’s Social and Economic Justice Initiative. They helped him establish HaLev (Heart), the Movement for Life with Dignity, which unites homeless people and grassroots activists. Advocates from HaLev’ have put up a tent city outside the Beersheva municipal offices, written to government ministries, and lobbied at the Knesset. “Without Shatil’s input and logistical support, HaLev would not be here today,” Haim says. ”Now we are able to give a voice to those at the margins of Israeli society.”
Erez Perlmuter: From High Tech Businessman to Innovative Rights Advocate
When a friend told high-tech manager Erez Perlmuter about Shatil’s Economic and Social Policy Shapers Program, it reawakened the sense of justice he’d had as a child. He immediately signed up. “The interaction with participants from many sectors and with a variety of non-profits triggered innovative thinking and lots of motivation,” he says. During his internship with Community Advocacy, Erez noticed that staff and volunteers consulted little, frequently outdated booklets that were intended to inform people about their rights. “I thought that a modern, computerized information system would make a huge difference. I realized we could use the Wikipedia model in which experts upload information, conduct peer reviews, and edit and update the information to ensure it is current and credible. Together with Amitay Korn, a successful high tech entrepreneur with whom Erez worked with in the past, and with seed money from NIF, he launched the on-line Kol Zchut (All Rights). Now individuals, organizational workers and government employees can access up-to-date information on rights for employees, retired people, children with special needs, Holocaust survivors, pregnant women, and other groups – rights that Israelis are entitled to but all-too-often do not take advantage of. Says Perlmuter: “The course was a gift, and Shatil a trigger for transforming an idea into action.”
Wasim Abbas – Advocating for Civil and Human Rights in the Arab Sector
Wasim Abbas didn’t realize that the poster advertising Shatil’s Everett Social Justice Fellowship Program would change his life. With a BA in political science and Hebrew literature, Wasim was accepted as an Everett intern at the Israel branch of Amnesty International, where he developed a program for human-rights education in the Arab sector. “It wasn’t easy,” Wasim recalls. “At the time, people were not interested in or conscious of human-rights issues.”
But he persevered. Says Wasim: “The internship was a major influence on my life. It strengthened my interest in human-rights issues and gave me practical experience. It influenced my decision to do an MA in international relations with a specialty in human rights.”
Wasim was participating in an international victims-rights seminar in Strasburg last summer when he received the tragic news that his 15-year-old sister, Doaa, had been killed by a katyusha that exploded in the family’s home in the village of Maghar. Two other siblings and Wasim’s mother also were injured. As the eldest son, Wasim took a leave of absence from his studies and left his job as coordinator of the Identity and Belonging Project at Ibn Khaldun, the Arab association for Social Development, in order to take care of his traumatized family and battle the government for the compensation due to them.
Despite the tragedy, Wasim can still say, “I love life and I want the people around me to lead good, honorable lives.” Respect for human rights, he adds, is a precondition for living such lives – and for peace.
Nabila Espanioly – Providing Assistance to Israel’s Northern Arabs
Nabila Espanioly is the founder and program director of Nazareth-based Al-Tufula (Childhood) Pedagogical Center, which focuses on early childhood and women’s empowerment in the Arab community in Israel. Four days after the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War, Nabila called an emergency meeting of Al-Tufula to decide on strategy and action. That afternoon, a rocket fell in Nazareth, killing two children.
Only ten percent of the Arab population in the North had access to safe rooms or shelters, and few villages had public alarm systems. An emergency public-education campaign was a must. Al-Tufula helped an Arabic-language radio station write a broadcast about trauma and stress relief. With Shatil assistance and NIF support, Al-Tufula produced 6,440 stress-relief kits (with activity sheets to help children express and cope with their fears) and recruited 60 volunteers to distribute the kits to families in 54 villages and towns in the North – despite the falling rockets. Al-Tufula also organized 10,000 packages of school supplies, including manuals on trauma and post-trauma, so Arab children would be prepared for the new school year.
“Shatil stood by me and Al-Tufula throughout all the trials and tribulations during and after the war,” says Nabila. “Shatil found emergency resources and organizational networks for our work and gave me the tools to ensure that the Arab Israeli community’s voice would be heard.”
Sara Alkamalat – From Disempowered Girl to Powerful Woman
Sara Alkamalat has come a long way: from a schoolgirl plagued by red, itchy hands and eyes from working with sprayed crops without the benefit of gloves or protective glasses, to a leader who teaches other Bedouin women about their employment rights; from a teenager engaged to a man her parents chose, to a woman eagerly looking forward to marrying the man she chose for herself. Sara credits this transformation to her participation in several Shatil courses. “I didn’t know a thing about my rights,” says the 32-year-old preschool assistant who is one of 11 children. “Shatil gave me tools to cope with life. Bedouin women don’t aspire to much because of the limits our society puts on us. But when I walk into Shatil, I think beyond these limits. I am sad that today, there are still girls who go to work as I did. That’s why our group of Bedouin Women’s Rights and Leadership Course graduates decided to conduct workshops for these girls and to write a brochure about their rights. The change in me is very deep. Shatil gave me the ability to stand up for myself. Today, if you are a guest in my house, you see that my word has meaning; my brothers and uncles listen to my opinion. I am very proud of this.”
Amal Alnasasrah Alabid: A Negev First
In Israel’s Negev desert, a group of female agricultural workers have been informed of their rights for the first time, thanks to Amal Alabid, a graduate of Bedouin Women for our Rights, a Shatil training course for young Bedouin women with leadership potential. Amal was inspired to reach out to perhaps the most oppressed group in Israel: black Bedouin women who work as contractual farm workers.
In a series of weekly meetings, a dozen women learned what a salary slip is (something they do not receive); that Israel has a minimum wage and laws that prescribe how many hours a person can work (they work from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.); and that their employer must give them protective equipment when they work with pesticides (they don’t even receive gloves). The women come from Neighborhood 20, the poorest in the Negev Bedouin town of Rahat, and are often the sole wage earners for their families. Alabid started with raising awareness but now wants to move on to policy change. “Since I began participating in Shatil courses four years ago, I’m a changed woman,” she says. “Shatil gave me the courage, strength and self-confidence to pursue my dream of advancing my community.”
Arnon Kashansky: From Industrialist to Agent of Change
When Arnon Kashansky moved from Herzliya to the Negev to become the director of the southern branch of the Israel Manufacturers Association, his knowledge about the Bedouin – who make up 25% of the Negev’s population – was limited to the stereotypes he’d picked up from the media. As a member of Shatil’s Negev Forum for Multi-Sector Leadership, Arnon actually met some Bedouin – and changed his views. “The Forum broadens your knowledge and gives you insights and experiences you don’t get in the day-to-day,” says the 36-year-old economist and businessman. “It transformed my approach, my understanding and my appreciation of a complex reality. I now believe the Bedouin need to be an integral part of the Negev and its workforce.
Scores of employers and 1,000 job seekers recently attended the Manufacturers Association’s first employment fair in Rahat (Israel’s largest Bedouin city). I personally convince industrialists to hire Bedouin, and now there are several factories in the Negev that have their first Bedouin workers. The Shatil Forum opens doors. It connects me with activists who care, with people I would not otherwise have met. Not everything is perfect. I can see the problems more clearly. But I also see that we can take steps in the right direction. The Association, the Ministry of Education and the Be’er Sheva Municipality are opening the first technological training center in the Negev with the goal of involving Bedouin. The connections I made through the Shatil Forum are helping to make this a reality. If I have to phone someone from the Bedouin community, I now know who to call.”
Haled, who is married with one child, was inspired to become a social worker because of his experience growing up in Rahat, the largest Bedouin town in the Negev. Rahat is a typical Bedouin town: its infrastructure and services are inadequate and its poverty and unemployment rates are far higher than elsewehre in Israel.
Conditions are even worse for the 70,000 Bedouin living in unrecognized villages. Haled directs Community Advocacy’s work with the unrecognized villages. His mission is to empower residents by improving their access to social benefits related to housing, health and education.
Haled is a graduate of Shatil’s innovative Community Organizing Training Program, a year-long program of academic studies and practical field work that trains professional community organizers to lead significant social-change efforts. Highlights of the program include an intensive two-day workshop conducted by Professor Marshall Ganz of Harvard University. Halad: “The tools that I’ve learned in this course will be valuable in advancing our community; I look forward to using them in all my organizing activities.”
Tamer Nafer – Change through Music
Tamer is a nationally renowned Hip Hop Artist from the mixed Arab and Jewish city of Lod. Growing up witness to the poverty and desperation of his community, Tamer knew he wanted to make a difference. His first album, “Stop Using Drugs,” established a dialogue about important issues in his community. As he continued to develop his skills, his message of social change and equal rights for Arab residents became increasingly pronounced.
With the support of Shatil, Tamer and his group, DAM, wrote and produced “Born Here,” a song and video about housing and citizens’ rights in Israel. In 2007, Tamer and DAM brought some of the country’s top artists to perform with them on Shatil’s Mixed Cities Concert Tour of Lod, Ramla, Nazareth, Haifa and Tel Aviv/Jaffa. This concert brought together Jewish and Arab musicians to advance equality and social justice. “People think they understand what’s going on in Lod, but coming here and seeing it up close helps people really understand. The artists now understand that it takes a lot of effort to make a change, but if we can work together and make more people aware of the problems here, we can begin to make a difference.”
Yossi Fitoussi and Zouheir Bahloul, Joint Founders of Acco Group for Joint Living
A veteran resident of the mixed city of Acco, Yossi Fitoussi watched as more and more of his Jewish friends left the city. “I felt that if Jews and Arabs were to sit together, attitudes would change and people wouldn’t leave,” says the former community center director and co-founder of the Acco Theater Festival.
After Arab-Jewish violence erupted in Acco on Yom Kippur 2008, Shatil approached Yossi’s neighbor, Zouheir Bahloul, a well-known media personality, with the idea of starting just such a group. “I understood the violence as arising from increasing pressure that just had to burst,” says Zouheir, referring to the problems facing Israeli Arabs. “It was in the aftermath of this crisis that we started our Shatil-led Acco Group for Joint Living. I had my doubts about its potential for success, but Shatil convinced me not to let the darkness rule.” Adds Yossi: “The fact that Shatil was a professional, neutral body with knowledge and experience in conflict management and facilitation helped the group thrive. Despite many challenges, we succeeded in writing a document with our vision for a truly joint city and recruited the mayor to our cause. He, in turn, connected us with directors of municipal departments, schools and community centers, so we could promote our ideas throughout the city and bring everyone – native Israeli Jews and Arabs, immigrants from the Caucuses, Ethiopia and Russia – closer together. We are getting people to think anew about joint life in this city.” Says Zouheir: “Without Shatil, we wouldn’t have started and we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Yardena Michael – Leading the Way for Single Mothers
Yardena Michael grew up in Haifa, the third of 10 children of immigrants from Iraq. When she left her husband after 16 years of marriage, Yardena had to raise her four children alone, with no child support. She had no work experience and only a high school education. After joining a Shatil-run support group for single parents, Yardena was inspired to work for social change.
In November 2006, Yardena testified at the Shatil-coordinated public hearing held in Haifa, talking about the difficulties she and her family experienced during the Second Lebanon War. Her children suffered from acute anxiety. Her daughter contracted an infection from the poor sanitary conditions in the shelter and had to be hospitalized in order to receive intravenous antibiotics. Yardena said that the only aid she got during the period was from non-profit organizations.
She is currently heading a project to inform women of their rights after divorce, as part of an initiative sponsored by Itach Ma’aki: Lawyers for Women’s Rights. “I want to help other women so that they can have an easier time than I did in dealing with legal hurdles when starting a new life for themselves,” Yardena says. “Shatil gave me the strength to believe that I can make a difference.”
Safa Younes, Founder, Jaffa Bride of the Sea Women’s Center
During her most recent maternity leave, Safa Younes, an MSW with a specialization in women’s studies, decided to leave her job as a probation officer to found a women’s center in her hometown of Jaffa. “As a woman and a resident of Jaffa, I felt we lacked a place where women could get together to learn about our rights and about how to advance our community,” she says. Safa researched the work of other women’s organizations and then turned to Shatil. “Shatil encouraged me to believe in my vision and helped me understand the context in which I was working, as well as how to strategize and to develop clear goals and programs,” she says. “I attribute much of our progress to Shatil.”
Today, hundreds of women visit the Bride of the Sea Women’s Center, whether for weekly lectures and discussions about issues such as civil rights and violence against women; monthly trips; economic-empowerment initiatives; or courses in computers, English and literacy. The center’s programs are all offered in collaboration with other organizations or government offices. Twelve women who are being trained in community empowerment launched a project to discourage early marriage, and a collective is working on making and marketing handmade dolls. Women involved in these projects strategize together about the future of the center – an idea Safa developed with Shatil. Says Safa: “For every dilemma I have, I can find help at Shatil.”
Riki Tegave – Working for the Ethiopian Community
When Riki Tegave was a child in the Ethiopian village of Ambover, she and her playmates would run after every plane that passed, shouting, “Take us to Jerusalem!” This dream came true when she arrived in Israel at the age of nine. Riki earned a B.A. in education and an M.A. in counseling from the University of Haifa. After seven years of volunteering in the Ethiopian community, she co-founded Hiyot (Life), an organization of university-educated women who work to advance the Ethiopian community in Haifa.
During the Second Lebanon War, Riki joined other activists of Ethiopian origin in a Shatil-led tour of shelters in the North, for the purpose of assessing the needs of Ethiopian immigrants and offering them words of encouragement. Hiyot distributed food to needy immigrants and, with Shatil’s help, organized a five-day outing to Jerusalem to provide the Ethiopian families with a short respite from the war.
In Shatil’s first post-war public hearing in Haifa, Riki testified about the serious neglect of the Ethiopian community during the war: no information was provided in Amharic, the shelters were far away, and neither food nor medicine was distributed. She reported that traumatized children had still not received appropriate psychological support.
Riki says, “I don’t know where we would be today if it hadn’t been for Shatil. Shatil enables the different to find strength in their difference. It gives you the confidence to be different and still be able to lead.”
Liza Nikolaichuk – from Caregiver to NGO Director
Like many Russian immigrants, educational psychologist Liza Nikolaichuk worked as a caregiver upon herimmigration to Israel in 1994. After she took in a young attempted-rape victim, a neighbor spoke to her about Maslan, the Women’s Support Center for Battered and Sexually Abused Women in the Negev. Seeing that Maslan had no Russian-speaking staff or volunteers and thus no Russian-speaking clients, Liza decided to volunteer there. After several years, she was asked to join the board and that’s when she began to work with Shatil. “I thought we needed to reorganize and I turned to Shatil,” she says. “Shatil staff interpreted for me, explained things to me – including the different mentality here. When the board wanted to hire me as director, I said, ‘But I’m a psychologist not a manager!’ They told me, ‘You have Shatil.’ Through Shatil, I learned how to articulate a vision, define roles, build a work plan, manage budgets, reorganize and professionalize the organization. I send my coordinators to every course Shatil offers. Without fail, when I have a question I get a response from Shatil. There is no other body that is able to respond so professionally to such a wide variety of issues and with such a deep, multi-cultural understanding and a special personal connection. Shatil continues to be by my side every step of the way.”
Coordinator, Economic Empowerment for Women
Yosepha grew up with five siblings on her grandfather’s moshav in the North of Israel. Her father immigrated to Israel from Yemen and her mother immigrated from Tunisia at age one. On days when Yosepha did not have to go to school, she woke up at 5 a.m. to milk the cows.
At 18, she joined the army, where she worked with soldiers who had dropped out of school, most of whom were Mizrachim. Yosepha was struck by the huge divide between Ashkenazim and Mizrachim – one she had not noticed as a child, even though she grew up on a Yemenite moshav surrounded by Ashkenazi kibbutzim.
Yosepha received a BA in education and literature and an MA in the sociology of education, both from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. During her student years, Yosepha volunteered with Achoti (My Sister), a Mizrachi feminist organization. Yosepha developed Women Cook up a Business, a project that trains unemployed women to use the kills they already possess to open a small business. Achoti gives women a way to escape from poverty.
Wanting to make a greater impact, Yosepha joined up with Shatil, where she has been instrumental in training organizations to cultivate a “bottom-up economy.” Under Yosepha’s leadership, Shatil’s Forum for the Promotion of Micro-business Initiatives convinced the Israeli government to ease certain regulations, thus enabling indigent women to retain their welfare rights when they go into business. A winner of NIF’s Yaffa London Ya’ari Award for Israeli women activists, Yosepha, 29, recently gave birth to her first baby, whom she hopes will grow up in a safer, more tolerant, community-oriented Israel.
Ada Safanov, Founder of KAMAK, Absorption of Immigrants from the Caucuses Region
Armed with an MA in education, three years of experience as director of a Jewish school in the Former Soviet Union and a desire to help immigrant pupils from her native Caucuses region, Ada helped form KAMAK, Absorption of Immigrants from the Caucuses Region. Given that Ada and the other founders came from a society with no tradition of civil society, they had to start from scratch. “Shatil gave us all the guidance we needed, helping us understand how an NGO functions, how to define goals, establish a board, and so much more,” says Ada. “This is especially important for an immigrant organization.”
Together with other organizations in Shatil’s Coalition for Youth at Risk, KAMAK lobbied the government to change its policy to better serve immigrant youth. One achievement was convincing the Ministry of Education to hold an MA course in educational counseling for immigrants. As part of Shatil’s Back from the Edge project, KAMAK developed an innovative program in literacy for immigrant pupils. The Ministry of Education has asked KAMAK to implement it in two additional schools this year and has expressed interest in offering the program in others. “I have a very personal relationship with Shatil consultants,” says Ada. “Shatil is always by my side, ready to help.”
Raya Riger and Yiftach Shiloni
Raya Riger immigrated to Israel in 1989 from the Ukraine. She established and now directs the Immigrants Parents Forum, which gives immigrant parents information about their social, educational and health rights. Yiftach Shiloni is the director of the Institute of Jewish Secular Rites, which aims to develop and promote models for secular Jewish life-cycle ceremonies (marriage, brit mila, burial).
Raya and Yiftach first met through a Shatil course on joint ventures between immigrant and religious-pluralism organizations, and immediately realized the considerable potential for partnership. The Immigrants Parents Forum and the Institute of Jewish Secular Rites have already helped each other reach new audiences and build bridges across different communities. Raya and Yiftach are continuing this partnership effort as founding members of the Shatil-coordinated Forum for Religious Pluralism and Immigrant Organizations. “This project would never have got off the ground without Shatil,” said Yiftach. “The workshop, and now the Forum, provided a critical framework to break through cultural barriers.”
Milana Yaari, Coordinator, Back from the Edge Project to Strengthen Immigrant Youth at Risk from the Former Soviet Union and Ethiopia
Milana made aliyah at age 11 from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, just six months after her father died in a car accident. As grief mingled with the trauma and uncertainty of a big move, Milana herself was potentially at risk. Although she came from an established family in Tashkent, Milana found herself in a public housing project in an impoverished, crime-ridden neighborhood in Lod. To support her three children, Milana’s mother, an accountant, held menial jobs, “like so many immigrants do.” Despite her traditional Bukharian background, Milana’s paternal grandmother, a pharmacist, taught her that she should always be able to earn her own living.
After her national service, Milana earned her BA in community social work at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and began an internship at Shatil’s Assistance to Immigrants from the FSU Project, earning the “outstanding student” award. “Since coming to Shatil, I haven’t stopped growing and developing – in community organizing, organizational consulting and management,” she says. She went on to lead the National Coalition for Immigrant Youth-at-Risk, which raised public awareness about the need for culturally sensitive treatment of immigrant youth, placing the topic on the national agenda. Now she is coordinator of Back from the Edge, another growth opportunity for Milana, who at 29 is expecting her second child. “There isn’t another government body or NGO in this country that sees the youth-at-risk picture in such a holistic way and uses so many different strategies,” she says. “Working at Shatil gives me a feeling of doing meaningful, important work.”
Yonatan Benarroch, Chairperson, NTA Israel – Ne’emanei Torah V’Avoda
As a member of the religious Zionist B’nei Akiva youth movement, Yonatan Benarroch felt uncomfortable with the increasing extremism of Israel’s religious community. He connected with NTA Israel – Ne’emanei Torah V’Avoda, a movement that champions a more open and humane form of Orthodoxy. The murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin convinced Yonatan that the growing intolerance of the Orthodox community threatened the very fabric of Israeli society. Yonatan became increasingly involved in the foundering movement and helped revive it together with a small group of friends.
Today, with Yonatan as its chair, NTA is involved in pathbreaking collaborations with Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and secular partners. These include initiatives to create an international alternative religious court for conversions and to establish the first pluralistic cemetery in Jerusalem. “Shatil helped us breathe new life into the organization and to quadruple our resources and activities,” says Yonatan, who is now a doctoral candidate at Hebrew University, writing his dissertation on the Zohar. “Our three main objectives – to encourage critical public discourse among the Orthodox, to bring pluralistic values to religious education and to change the structure of religious services in Israel to better reflect the community – came about after many hours of work with Shatil. My work with other streams of Judaism is a result of Shatil’s influence. Shatil molded me into who I am today.”
Yochai Levi – Everything is possible
A motorcycle accident left Yochai Levi paralyzed, with no use of his arms and legs. Yochai took his fate into his own hands and developed a new talent (and now a profession): painting by mouth. Finding himself completely disabled, Yochai decided to work not only for his own benefit, but for the benefit of others with disabilities. For 19 years, he has lectured in schools about art and road safety.
When he participated in a Shatil social-change training course for people with disabilities, Yochai worked on a project to more fully integrate people with disabilities into society. He later founded a non-profit organization to promote that goal: Yachad Na’aleh (Together We Will Rise.) Yochai says: “In addition to good material and excellent guidance, Shatil helps me to know that everything is possible, that it’s up to us.”