After nearly four years of supporting Solidarity of Nations - Achvat Amim, Masa Israel has pulled its support for the program under its current leadership. Masa’s decision comes on the heels of the release of an inaccurate and misleading investigative report on the program and its directors conducted by the extreme right wing organization Ad Kan, which has become known for targeting left wing organizations committed to human rights.
In the report, which was repeated in several Israeli media sources, Ad Kan attempts to paint Achvat Amim as beyond the bounds of legitimate engagement and opinion on Israel and the conflict by presenting false assertions and disinformation about the program’s activities. This report is apparently an attempt to push the Ad Kan agenda, which it would appear seeks to delegitimize any criticism of the occupation and preclude Jews from around the world from making meaningful contributions to creating a more peaceful and just society. Masa’s decision to withdraw its support for Achvat Amim represents a sharp deviation from its principle of advancing pluralistic discourse and education and a wide range of identities and viewpoints within the Zionist world. Unfortunately, Masa’s decision excludes many young Jews whose identities involve real engagement with Israel, and narrows the scope of acceptable thinking and engagement on the issues most pressing to Israel today.
Achvat Amim is a 5-month volunteer program in Jerusalem that directly engages with the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through human rights work and critical education, based on the core value of self-determination for all peoples. Participants volunteer in group projects and in individualized placements, while traveling extensively, and learning with leaders in the field. Together, we build a dynamic learning community in which we explore and shape Jewish culture and identity as individuals and as part of a greater whole. Participants learn Hebrew and Arabic in a creative framework, and have diverse opportunities for religious and spiritual learning and practice as part of our Ruchani track.
We bring Jews from around the world to Israel to take part in making it a better place and provide a space where they can honestly wrestle with one of the most pressing challenges facing Israel - the conflict, and the occupation. We have always been fully transparent about this.
Many Achvat Amim participants come to the program from a place of very deep connection with their Jewish communities and with Israel. At the same time, we are highly successful at engaging participants who have, or are close to, turning their backs on Israel and their Jewish identity because they haven't found room to have a deep, critical, and holistic relationship with this place and the people that call it home. The program creates a safe space for constructive and nuanced education where participants can bring their full identities in all their complexity. The program is rooted in the values of Hashomer Hatzair - Zionism, Socialism, and Solidarity of Nations, and our participants are intelligent and critical thinking adults, who are exploring and finding their own voice, vision, and values. When participants come to Achvat Amim they experience both the beauty and the hardships of this place and through genuine experience, solid and long-lasting connections are built.
The Sumud camp referred to in the false and misleading Ad Kan report was a six-week event that brought together Israelis, Palestinians and Jews from around the world to take part in entirely legal activities - clearing, cleaning, and making livable the area of the cave home of a local Palestinian family who were working to bring life back to the land they had left two decades ago. Despite claims in the Channel 2, and other subsequent media reports, which shockingly appear to have unquestioningly accepted Ad Kan's misinformation, this was a completely legal activity for the local family to be present in their lawfully owned property and to bring guests to work with them. Achvat Amim participants who took part did so independently in time that was not organized by the program, and were not present for anything that could be construed as civil disobedience or disobeying authorities, as is consistent with our policy and commitment to the safety and security of our participants.
While Ad Kan, through fallacious accusations and misinformation, is trying to silence critical thought, education, and actions that support human rights or self-determination for the Palestinian people, we are committed to continuing our work and including more voices in building a brighter future for all. This is an initiative that Masa had found to be valuable and important, and we are deeply disappointed that they have accepted the narrative of an extreme right wing organization and chosen to vilify leading educators and activists who care deeply about this place and the people who call it home. The founders of the program, Karen Isaacs and Daniel Roth, have consistently worked to build creative and justice-seeking Jewish communities and made Aliyah nearly six years ago to continue that work in Israel.
We are confident that with the support of the many people who understand how significant this work is for the Jewish people and for Israelis and Palestinians, we will be able to move forward without letting this needless attack harm the important framework we are actively building.
We are continuing to build Achvat Amim as a deeply educational space, connected to, and actively engaging with the movement for a just peace. Our fall cohort is already underway, and we look forward to welcoming the next amazing cohort in the spring, and to the coming years of work in partnership with all those who believe in a shared and peaceful future.
Support here: www.youcaring.com/achvatamim