Britain's J-Street unveils as Yachad

By Simon Rocker, April 14, 2011

An alternative Israel advocacy organisation, inspired by the American J Street, has finally launched.

Known as Yachad, the Hebrew for "together", it aspires to be a grassroots movement supportive of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and of Israel's future as a Jewish, democratic state.

Its director, Hannah Weisfeld, former chair of the Jewish Social Action Forum, said that it would provide a voice for the "silent majority of British Jews who believe the best way to safeguard Israel's future is through a negotiated settlement and the end of the occupation".

But she said that there would be clear differences from J Street and unlike the American enterprise, Yachad would not be a political lobbying organisation.

The new group is being chaired by Daniel Reisel, a medical student involved with Limmud, who has lectured widely on Jewish ethics. A graduate of Bnei Akiva, he served in the Israeli army during the 2006 Lebanon War.

Yachad will not be a political lobbying group

Mr Reisel said that Yachad was founded out of "genuine love and unshakeable commitment" to Israel.

Its approach, he said, would be "centred around education and advocacy. Crucially, we believe that reflective, hands-on, Jewishly-informed education is a prerequisite for effective advocacy". 

Other members of its board include Stephen Grabiner, the former head of media operations at private equity investors Apax; Ben Overlander, a former Bicom staffer; and Alexander Saphir, whose father Nicholas chairs the New Israel Fund.

Ms Weisfeld said that Yachad's agenda transcended "the left-right debate" and its Hebrew name clearly indicated its spirit. "It is about standing together with our community and with Israel - with those who want to see a secure and peaceful Israel flourish," she said.

In recent months, the group has brought over Akiva Eldar, political columnist for the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, for a speaking tour, and organised a petition against the Board of Deputies' failure to pass a resolution in support of two states.

Yachad has launched an appeal among the 2,000 people it says are on its email list in order to raise £50,000 to fund its operation over the next 12 months. It previously raised £40,000 to underwrite its pre-launch activities as well as a programme for youth and students this summer.

An Israel embassy spokesman said: "We look forward to Yachad standing together with the Israeli public and their government and confronting recent events such as the rockets out of Gaza, the shelling of a school-bus in the Negev, the bus bombing in Jerusalem and the slaughter of a family in their beds in Itamar."

Last updated: 12:15pm, April 14 2011