Our participant Natalia did her internship at the Coalition Against Racism, an organization committed against discrimination and racism in Israel. Find out more about her experience in our blog!
I did my internship in one of the most beautiful and multicultural cities in Israel: Haifa, as part of the organization called „Coalition against racism“. My apartment was located in the same building as my working place, so it was pretty easy for me to get to work every morning. The building I was working and living in belonged to the Arab-Palestinian community in Israel, so a lot of other important NGOs were located there, such as the biggest advocacy center for Arab citizens in Israel „Mossawa“ or the organization of psychologists who work with Syrian refugees „Humanitycrew“.
I was the only intern at the Coalition against Racism, but I did not feel alone. The house was full of pupils and students who did their English or mathematics courses there, as well as volunteers from other organizations. It was a very international and friendly atmosphere.
The community house itself was located between two very different regions: the so called „German Colony“, one of the oldest and most beautiful areas in Haifa that was founded by the German Templers in 1868, and the „Hadar“, the district which is mostly inhabited by Russian-speaking population. Whereas in German Colony you could enjoy a lot of fashionable and expensive restaurants and bars, mostly in European style the Hadar was a place with hundreds of Russian and Arab locations with the fairest prices that I found in Israel. This feeling of multiculturalism and peaceful coexistence of different religions and nations that I experienced in Haifa was absolutely fascinating.
The Coalition against racism, where I did my internship, was founded in 2003 as a joint project of 8 civil society organizations which represented different minority voices of Israel, from Arab- Palestinian communities and Mizrachim (Jews from Middle East and South Africa) to Russian speakers and Reform Jews. The Coalition deals with the cases of institutional and structural discrimination of minorities, provides legal support and initiates public campaigns against racism and discrimination.
In my first month at the Coalition I also dealt with some cases of discrimination that happened mostly to the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel. One of such cases was about a woman who bought a car at a car dealer but was rejected for delivery to her home because she was living in the Arab village. Of course, in most such cases it’s very difficult to prove that the discrimination took place. The seller did not say „we won’t deliver the car to your home because you are living in the Arab village“, but they found other reasons why they would not do this. Unfortunately, the everyday life of minority groups consists of such „small“ cases, where you’re refused access to the clubs because of your skin color or aren’t invited to a job interview because you have an „eastern name“, like in the case of Orient Jews (Mizrachim) who in fact change their surnames in order to sound more European.
When I planned my trip to Israel I wanted to know more about Jewish religion and Zionism. But the experience that I received when I started my work at the Coalition was seeing the land through the eyes of minorities, through the eyes of „others“ who are not entirely part of the ruling orthodox-religious and Zionist world. So that in my second month I’ve been travelling all over the country and met the leaders of different national and religious communities to interview them. We spoke about the current situation with the minority groups in Israel, about the cases of discrimination that they’re facing and also about the strategies how to improve the current situation. The director of the Coalition against racism elped me a lot with getting the contacts and managing the meetings. And at the end of my internship I had 16 expert interviews with the representatives of almost all the main minority groups of Israel. In addition, I would say that it was an incredible experience to speak with the people who dedicate their lives to helping others and who work every day to make the land they are living in better! I am very grateful for this precious experience to the Coalition against racism and to World Unite!