It all started with an injury. Orly, the head of our legal department, broke her leg during the Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance last week. One minute, she was full of activist energy, the next she was writhing on the ground in pain. Orly’s plight made all of us stop to examine how fragile we are as individuals and as a team.
At IRAC, we are a team of professionals committed to saving Israel from religious extremists and zealots. We fight for equality, tolerance, and religious pluralism, and we do that using our various arms in synergy. Lately, we have all felt broken and exhausted from our constant struggle.
Like all fighters, we too noticed both in ourselves and our creeping development of fighter’s fatigue. The symptoms are: disappointment in Israel’s democratic institutions, difficulty sleeping, cynicism, a decline in confidence, pessimism and hopelessness.
Our staff is more susceptible than others to attrition. The very characteristics that give us strength are the ones which make us more susceptible: our commitment to our work, our high emotional intelligence, and our deep caring about Israel and its Jewish and democratic character.
So, we decided, that like anything else, we will take this fatigue to task. We invited our whole staff to meet with Dr. Nahi Alon, a veteran psychologist specializing in advising on this topic. Orly limped into the conference room, sitting through the meeting with her feet propped up on pillows and her wheel chair beside her.
Dr. Alon asked us to describe what is so difficult about our jobs. One of our leading lawyers on racism said that he feels like he is choking. He can’t breathe after reading racist incitement by rabbis against minorities. Our legal intern, wished she had a way to protect her heart so she is still sensitive, yet not infected by the hate she is exposed to. Orly confessed that she is disgusted by all the talk about “Jewish unity” uttered by the very same people who actively incite against Reform and Conservative Jews on a daily basis. I said I can handle sticks and stones, but I’m deeply hurt by ridicule, jeers and mockery. Our grant writer, shared how hard it is for her to find hope when some of our victories in court are reversed by lack of implementation or circumvented by a new law in the Knesset.
“So, why do you do it, and what helps you survive?” Dr. Alon asked us. The answers from our staff were very much like those answered by Israeli military heroes when receiving a commendation for heroism. They said: “I do my job because I have no choice.” “It gives my life meaning.” “I do it for my children.” “What helps me is the team.” “Our staff WhatsApp group, which showers even little achievements with handclapping icons, flowers, and smilies.”
And you, our readers from abroad, were also mentioned. Members of our staff said that encouragement from you, your comments, your checks, your questions, reflect more than money. They are a source of strength and a source of hope.
This meeting gave us just the boost of energy, support and hope we needed to keep going and continue our non-violent fight for justice in Israel. It also gave us ideas of how we can continue to provide each other the support and positivity we need to not give into the fighter’s fatigue.
Orly’s leg was looked at by one of Israel’s orthopedists and he found that it’s not quite broken. Maybe that is true for the rest of us. Please continue to support us in our continuous battle for equality, tolerance and religious pluralism in Israel.