New Israel Fund attracts 500 supporters — even after dinner is cancelled

Charity is supporting families of hostages and helping to house evacuees from the south of Israel


The New Israel Fund may have cancelled its annual dinner on Sunday, but 500 supporters turned up to a central London venue to hear briefings on its crisis response work since the Hamas attack on Israel.

The charity is supporting the families of hostages taken to Gaza, helping to house evacuees from the south of Israel and providing mobile shelters to Bedouin communities who otherwise have no protection against rockets.

Its main event of the year would normally have celebrated the winners of its annual human rights awards, given for advancing equality, civil rights and Jewish-Arab co-existence in Israel.

Instead, guests heard online and live presentations of its activities, which include support for joint Jewish-Arab community patrols to avoid a repeat of the clashes that broke out in mixed cities in Israel after the conflict between Israel and Gaza two years ago; and also for FakeReporter, a digital initiative designed to counter misinformation that incites hatred.

NIF-supported Givat Haviva, the oldest centre in Israel for promoting the idea of a shared society, has welcomed more than 200 people displaced from the south since the October 7 pogrom.

“Keeping them safe is not only giving them a bed and their food,” explained the centre’s director Michal Sella on a video. “It’s also giving them a feeling that they are welcome here.”

The centre has opened a kindergarten for the internal refugees and provides psychological clinics to help families cope with trauma. Efrat Metzyyanim, from Ashkelon, who has used the centre, said: “They gave us the tools to be able to mediate the current situation to our children.”

Iris London, a mother of four, whose son used the centre, said that he had told her: “I can breathe in here.”

Another video showed condolences being paid to the family of Aamr Abu Sabilh, a construction worker from the Bedouin village of Abu Talul in the Negev, who died trying to protect a Jewish woman from Hamas in Sderot.

She was killed alongside him, but he helped to save her two children. The audience also saw rocket damage to a home in another Bedouin village, where there are no shelters.

Some 90,000 Bedouin live in villages that are not recognised by the Israeli government and are therefore ineligible for municipal services.

They were previously classed as open areas, which meant they were not covered by Israel’s Iron Dome defence system, but thanks to lobbying by civil rights organisations, that has now changed.

In Rahat, a city in the south, a joint Jewish-Arab hub has been set up to supply essential items to affected communities.

NIF’s UK branch last year raised £3.7 million, its second highest annual total. It is on course to raise at least £3million in 2023 — the first time it will have reached the figure in successive years.

Highlighting the work of its grantees, NIF chief executive David Davidi-Brown said: “If they have the courage to continue striving for peace, justice, and equality, we can and must be by their side. Their way is the way of hope.”

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