Detained not Deterred: NIF Leader Stopped at Ben Gurion
On Wednesday night my colleague Jennifer Gorovitz was briefly detained at Ben Gurion airport as she entered Israel, on her way to the NIF international board meeting in Jerusalem. The incident has been widely reported across the Israeli (Haaretz), British (Guardian) and American (NY Times) press.
Jen is the VP for Finance and Operations for NIF in the USA. When stopped, she told officers that she is Jewish and a Zionist, and that she works for NIF to support Israeli civil society. She endured three rounds of questioning. Jen noticed that her interviewer was holding a document with a considerable amount of information about her. This appears to be an act of political targeting.
However shocking this incident is, it should not be a total surprise to hear that government officials have started to intimidate NIF. As you may know it comes in a period when some political leaders in Israel have been working to harass and to block funding for some of the Israel human rights champions that NIF supports.
Jennifer Gorovitz has worked tirelessly for Israel over the years, raising millions of dollars, most notably during her tenure as CEO of the San Francisco Jewish Federation. Her reaction says it all ‘I was truly shocked that this place I love so much would turn me away at its gates’.
This incident drives home the nature of the daily political challenges faced by many of our Israeli friends and partners. It also reminds us that democratic values cannot be taken for granted.
I am travelling to Israel in the next few days to join Jen at the NIF international board meeting. At that meeting NIF will be deciding how to spend the money raised from our donors in the UK and across the world. NIF will approve grants for a wide range of projects and Israeli organisations tackling issues from poverty to shared society to democratic values.
I am incredibly proud to play my part in this work. NIF believes in a vision of a better Israel – one that is marked by equality and democracy. Please be assured that we will not let this incident – or the challenges our partners on the ground are confronted by – deter us from the work we believe in.
The Head of the Israeli Immigration Authority has since issued an apology which we welcome.
Adam Ognall, Chief Executive