Working for social change in Israel often feels like a Sisyphean struggle (or: an uphill battle.) The problems are many, the challenges are great, and the resources are few. Nonetheless, we at Shatil are committed to continuing the fight for economic equality, minority rights, equal access to education and many other issues. Below are examples of Shatil’s impact on Israeli society.
Fighting for the Benefit of the Israeli Public
- In the face of intense public pressure, as well as opposing pressure from the private gas companies, the government-appointed Sheshinski Committee decided that the state’s share of royalties from the huge fields of natural gas discovered off the coast would be 58%, a proportion comparable to other Western countries, instead of a mere 12%. Shatil supported a broad coalition of social and environmental organizations that lobbied intensely for a fare share for the state. Shatil is working with Rabbi Michael Melchior’s Civil Action Forum to ensure the royalties will be used to make Israel a fairer, better place for everyone.
- The Shatil-led Coalition for Responsible Planning influenced the Knesset discussion on the government’s planning reform and promoted a series of changes to the law, including the addition of civil society representatives to planning committees; improvements in transparency of the committees; and strengthening safeguards to ensure preservation of the coast and open spaces.
- Shatil played a crucial role in the Beta launch of The Open Budget, a new web-based initiative that allows anyone and everyone to see and search through different components of Israel’s national budget. It is aimed at activists, researchers and organizations, all of whom now have easy access to the budget for purposes of monitoring, developing projects and advancing social change.
Protecting Married Women
A precedent-setting revision to the Marital Property Law allows for the division of property before a divorce is granted. This makes it more difficult for a man to deny his wife a get (halachic divorce certificate) as a means of extortion. The International Coalition for Agunah Rights (ICAR) led this struggle with guidance from Shatil.
Equal Access to Early Childhood Education
In 2011, after years of struggle and extensive lobbying by Shatil’s Shmulik David, the Education Committee of the Knesset demanded that the Ministry of Education implement the 1999 mandatory free education law for pre-school children in the four Triangle towns of Kfar Kara, Jaljulia, Kfar Kassem and Taibe as well as in Abu Gosh, near Jerusalem.
In 2012 a government decision endorsing free early childhood education passed after Shatil collaborated with social protest leaders in endorsing the immediate application of the relevant clause in the Trajtenberg Report.
Ensuring Access to Health Care
The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance approved a budget allocation for the establishment of a radiotherapy institute in Tzfat – the first and only in the northern periphery. The decision was reached after an intensive, two-year public campaign initiated and led by Shatil with the aim of easing the lives of cancer sufferers in the North who must travel long hours to receive radiotherapy.
Bedouin Women as Agents for Change
Shatil’s program to empower women on the margins including Bedouin and Ethiopian women graduated more than 1,000 Bedouin women from Shatil leadership courses in health, education, rights and economic empowerment. Dozens found new employment opportunities as a result and some went on to found grassroots organizations to promote Bedouin women’s rights. Through their field projects, these women have strengthened thousands more with knowledge about their rights, nutrition, their children’s education and how to become involved in it, and more.
Protecting the Environment
- Shatil led a years-long campaign to stop a new coal power station from being built in Ashkelon and got the government to agree that it would be powered primarily by gas, thus safeguarding air quality, people’s health and reducing Israel’s greenhouse gas emissions.
- Intense lobbying, headed by a Shatil led coalition of 16 social and environmental organizations, resulted in the creation of a dedicated fund for the preservation of open spaces within the Israel Land Authority, with a budget of NIS 70 million.
- Graduates of Shatil’s Negev Fellows for the Environment Program have initiated such projects as the Negev’s first Environmental Film Festival, which attracted 1000 people its first year.
- There has been a dramatic decrease in wife murder and domestic violence in the Ethiopian community since Yachdav began its work three years ago. The government public education campaign advocated for by Yachdav increased to NIS 1 million and reached just about every Ethiopian home in Israel.
- With Shatil’s help, a group of Ethiopian activists succeeded in getting the Ministry of Education to close a low-performing, all-Ethiopian school in Petah Tikva in September 2011 and to transfer its pupils to integrated area schools. In addition, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced that school districting would be adjusted to give priority to members of the Ethiopian community. This victory marks an important milestone in the ability of Israel’s Ethiopian community to organize and fight for its rights.
Keeping Immigrant Youth in School
The eight schools in which Shatil’s Back from the Edge program to assist immigrant youth-at-risk has been implemented show a marked decrease of up to 20 percent in school drop-out rate and higher matriculation achievements among immigrant youth. Furthermore, through the project we developed models to address the lack of awareness of learning disabilities in the Russian- and Amharic-speaking immigrant communities which are now being spread nationwide, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education.
Mosaica, a project that enhances inter-cultural dialogue skills and acceptance of ‘the other,’ and developed by Educational Bridge, (the Back from the Edge implementing NGO in Lod) in the context of the Project, is now being implemented in 10 additional schools including schools in Ashdod, Netanya, Tel Aviv and Umm el Fahm.
Shatil and the Ministry of Education published a Russian-language booklet, the first of its kind: Learning Disabilities: Information for Parents. The Ministry of Education is distributing 4000 of these booklets to school all across Israel.
Dignity and Equality in the Workplace
- As a result of Shatil’s collaborative effort with the Association of Rape Crisis Centres and some of Israel’s leading women’s organizations, some 15,000 employers and employees in major institutions throughout the country underwent workshops equipping them with the knowledge and skills necessary to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
- Shatil coordinated an action group of organizations against Raising Women’s Retirement Age in Israel and succeeded in preventing the upping of retirement age for women from 62 to 67. The campaign worked closely with MKs from an unprecedentedly broad array of parties – led by Meretz’s Zehava Galon, who initiated the move, and including Yisrael Beiteinu’s Fania Kirshenbaum and Labor’s Dalia Itzik – as well as with WIZO, Naamat the Adva Center, the Mahut Center, Itach-MAKI, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and the Israel Women’s Network.
- Israel’s Social Workers, supported throughout by Shatil, led a nationwide strike, compelling the Finance Ministry to agree to a 25% raise in the extremely low salaries earned by government social workers as well as further pay raises for privately employed social workers. “The Shatil guidance is inspired,” says Osim Shinui’s (Creating Change) Karin Rivanowitch. “We feel we’re not alone in the struggle. And we are coming to understand that social change takes more than good will: you need to do things professionally and do them right.”
Shatil’s work with coalitions over the past two decades has yielded numerous achievements including notable successes such as:
- Government funding for free early childhood education
- The enactment of the Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Law
- The enactment of the Free Compulsory Education Law
- The revocation of the discriminatory Property Tax
- The enactment of the Crime Victims’ Rights Law
- Defeat of a clause which would have provided a legal basis for the General Security Service’s use of “moderate physical pressure” during interrogations
- The enactment of the Meals for Schoolchildren Law, which provides hot lunches for some 140,000 pupils.
- The opening of over 750 new public preschool classes for the Arab-Israeli community.