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Hatikvah

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February 21, 2013

Choice USA Executive Director, Kierra Johnson, will be traveling this week in Israel with the National Council of Jewish WomenIsrael Action Networkand a group of progressive women leaders. While there she will be blogging about the experience for ChoiceWords.

The Hope.

This is the name of the Israeli national anthem. After today, I am convinced that women and young people are the hope for present peace and future prosperity of Israel and Palestine.

Today we met with women working for NGOs in Haifa and members of Knesset, the legislative branch of Israeli government, in Tel Aviv. It was a highly political and emotional day.

We began meeting with people from the Women’s Center – Isha L’isha (women to women). Within this one center are five organizations working in different sectors to address unique issues for women in the area. This includes a  Palestinian LGBT organization, a Rape Crisis Center, and an organization providing support and services to survivors of rape and sex workers.

Visited the Tel-Aviv LGBT Center

My soul sister of the day represented Aswat, the Palestinian LGBTQ organization. She illustrated the challenges of being a Palestinian lesbian woman living in Israel. She began telling a story that is all too familiar to those of us who have ever had to hide, mask or compromise pieces of ourselves as we try to create social change in a movement that prioritizes one if not all of our identities. The word “complex” keeps coming up to describe the political, social and cultural issues within Israel. It is further complicated because each person that makes up Israel is also a nation unto itself. There are issues at war within, and a coalition government of the soul that rules the land. The layers of compromise that must be reached to achieve forward movement go so deep. Compromise within self, within family, within community and within municipal, national and international spheres. Isha L’isha is an example of how women are working together cross age, race, issues and religion. However the indicator of success is not that there isn’t conflict. Rather, their courage to head into conflict together with their eyes, ears and hearts open is the foundation upon what success and progress is built.

Women are pioneering this practice of loving confrontation. From that confrontation, young people are demanding that each person take responsibility for proposing visionary solutions and that the government begin experimenting with radical and creative strategies.

Two new Knesset (parliament) Members Michal Rozin & Stav Shafir

At the end of the day we met three of the newest members of the Knesset, Yifat Kariv, Michal Rozin and Stav Shafir. All three are young women and Ms. Shafir is 27 years old. She is the youngest person in history to hold a seat in the Knesset! These women did not set out to be career politicians. However with the help and support of WePower, an organization dedicated to ensuring women have what they need to occupy positions of power in academia, communication, national politics, municipality politics, business, and in the military, they have entered the political scene with ferocity.

Their radical solutions include increasing the representation of women in government, ensuring women from Palestinian, Bedouin and Orthodox communities are represented in municipalities and in the Knesset. They plan to champion a budget that supports access to education and affordable housing for young people. They also have a new vision for economic stability that gets back to a focus on taking care of people and sustainable systems not increasing and concentrating profit and wealth.

It is an understatement to say that the  love of and pride in country is evident in all of these women. I am also aware that they are in the business of dishing tough love to their beloved country people. Discussions that lead to negotiations that lead to more discussions is not a strategy that interests these vigilant leaders. They are ready to see decisions made and actions taken. They are willing to accept the consequences of exerting pressure on the inside if the international community will stand with them in declaration and support on the outside.

WePower and the leaders they support are mobilizing the grassroots. Ms. Shafir has already exhibited that she can mobilize the masses having turned out 500,000 people at her peaceful demonstrations which are similar in theme and nature (if not numbers) to the Occupy actions in the United States. These young leaders want to see those who are most affected by governmental policies engaged in the process.

Change is coming to Israel. The question is will they close the door on it and hold it at bay in fear, or will they proactively embrace this fresh and sweet (r)evolution? These women and young people seem to know a secret.

I’ve got my ears open ready to listen.

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