Questionnaire: A rights advocate

Nava Shoham Solan heads IDF Widows and Orphans Organization, was successful in securing legislation to ensure wives of fallen soldiers are cared for by the state.

Aviva Schalit 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Aviva Schalit 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
The recognition that what I’ll do today will assist, even if modestly, the widows and orphans who lost their loved ones in the wars of Israel, in the reality of their lives. Whether this be in defending their rights, initiating activities for their welfare, finding solutions to personal problems, or being their voice and representing them in official ceremonies and events.
What keeps you up at night?
Knowing that we have to struggle for almost everything needed for our widows and orphans, and the personal worry for my family.
What’s the most difficult professional moment you’ve faced so far?
The moments that we have to fight for our rights while being compared cost-wise to the cost of a tank that is needed for the defense of the country.
Our leaders should realize that if they recruit soldiers to fight for our country they should be prepared to bear the price it carries and protect the rights of those who remained without a father or husband.
How do you celebrate your achievements?
Realizing that we succeeded in achieving our mission in itself makes me happy and I share this with our workers, our volunteers and the families. The truth is that we haven’t got much time for celebrations. Unfortunately we still have a lot of work to do in order to improve the situation and to defend the rights of our widows and orphans, so we must move on to our next mission after any achievement.
If you were prime minister, what’s the first thing you would do?
I would act for more equality in Israeli society in a way that obligations and duties are shared justly. The recent call for social justice is not just a passing fad dealt with by the media. We live in a state that was established on the premises of mutual assistance and social solidarity but unfortunately things are not the same now. But the recent social protest that occurred this summer in Israel is a positive development which shows that Israeli public is not indifferent to the lack of social justice nor to the fact that only a small part of the population carries the burden.
Which Israeli should have a movie made about him/her?
Aviva Schalit. An Israeli mother that raised her son to serve and do his duty for his country and has been struggling for more than five years for his return. It is difficult to accept the pain and helplessness of a mother who knows of her son’s distress in captivity, so close geographically, and still not being able to protect him. When I think of Aviva I think of all the Israeli mothers who educate their sons and daughters for involvement and contribution to society and eventually send them proudly to serve and defend the country, for that is our reality, we have no other choice.
What would you change about Israelis if you could?
Our habit of doing things hastily and superficially – what we call making a combina – the idea that we should receive a lot for minimum [effort]. Israelis think that’s cool, until tragedies or disasters occur after which inquiry committees are set up to investigate these mishaps.
iPad, BlackBerry or pen and paper?
A combination of the three: pen and paper to quickly put down ideas and thoughts, BlackBerry for immediate correspondence and iPad to be up-to-date.
If you had to write an advertisement to entice tourists to come to Israel, what would it say?
Israel: a wonderful country with wonderful people. One of the biggest problems of Israel is that people around the world know it only through the image of the conflict with the Palestinians and the Arab world. This is what they see on their TV screens and in their press – only war and disturbances. Israel has much more to offer – it’s a beautiful country, with many good, warm, creative and talented people.
Any tourist coming here for the first time will be surprised to see a totally different reality than what is shown abroad.
What is the most serious problem facing the country?
The difficulty of keeping Israel a state which is equally Jewish and democratic.
And the fact that there are many people among us that are trying to raise the importance of one element over the other. The State of Israel was established and exists till today because it is both Jewish and democratic – two characteristics which must remain equal to each other – otherwise Israel will not remain what it is today – a national home of the Jewish people.
How can it be solved?
By struggling continuously to keep Israel a unique state, one that is both democratic and Jewish, via education, enhancing the right values, correcting injustices and keeping the law.
In 20 years, the country will be:
A country that is good to live in and a country all of whose people are living a peaceful and normal life.
The writer is chairwoman of the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization in Israel, dedicated to sponsoring extensive social activities, providing emotional support, and advancing the rights of IDF widows and orphans in Israel.
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