An age for a change

For most social rights activists and nonprofits in this country, former ‘Haaretz’ reporter Ruth Sinai is an icon of social change.

Ruth Sinai 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Ruth Sinai 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
■ What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Other than the need to get the kids off to school, a feeling that there’s lots to be done in order to achieve the social change we are seeking. We’re battling prejudice against workers 45 and older and trying to recruit the support of government and private-sector employers.
■ What keeps you up at night?
The fear that I won’t be able to raise money for our NGO, the concern that we’re not doing as many job placements as I’d like, the frustration with the exceedingly slow pace of government bureaucracy.
■ What’s the most difficult professional moment you’ve faced so far?
Having to make changes after taking over as head of the board. As I explain to the founders of the NGO, it’s no longer enough to be passionate about your agenda. In order to survive, NGOs are required to adopt standards similar to those of the business world, which entails a clear decision-making process, a chain of command, detailed reports measuring results, etc. This is a difficult concept for some to grasp.
■ How do you celebrate your achievements?
We’re too poor to go out and celebrate, so we make do with pats on the back and raising a glass (plastic) in a toast.
■ If you were prime minister, what’s the first thing you would do?
Resign. As Moses found out, leading the Jews is a thankless and frustrating job.
■ Which Israeli should have a movie made about him?
There are many worthy Israelis, but if I had to choose one, it would be Yoav Kreim, the most prominent spokesman of Israelis with disabilities. Yoav has cerebral palsy, he’s severely dyslexic, yet extremely articulate. He managed to finish his graduate studies in education despite barely being able to read or write.
He rose to prominence during the lengthy strike 10 years ago of Israelis with disabilities, presenting their demands to the Knesset, the government and the Israeli people. He gets around on a wheelchair but sees disability as merely a state of mind: Given physical access to places, one needn’t feel disabled at all, he says.
■ What would you change about Israelis if you could?
I would love for them to be more considerate of others, to respect each other’s personal space and to be more accepting of non-Jews.
■ BlackBerry or pen and paper?
I’m a pen-and-paper type of gal, a habit formed in my days as a reporter and difficult to change.
■ If you had to write an advertisement to entice tourists to come to Israel, what would it say?
Come and experience the diversity of our people, the holy places and the vibrant nightlife, ancient culture and the trendiest of fashion. There’s nothing quite like it.
■ The most serious problem facing the country is:
Poverty and inequality.
■ How can it be solved?
By changing national priorities, allocating more budgets to education and social services and less to defense; stopping the wholesale outsourcing and privatization of public services that result in lower pay for employees and outrageous profits for owners, doing away with income tax cuts for the very wealthy and with regressive taxes on goods and services.
■ In 20 years, the country will be:
More right-wing and religious, less tolerant of minorities, crowded and very hot.