Heart at East: The Coalition for Equal Distribution of Cultural Funds in Israel

On May 21, 2013, in Tel Aviv, I'm going to be awarded the Heart at East lifetime achievement plaque for my feminist-of-color activism, community leadership and academic scholarship. Heart at East is a coalition of 20 or so NGOs that aims to remedy the near complete lack of cultural rights and representation for Israel's majority citizenry, the Mizrahim.

The Heart at East lifetime achievement plaque was created as an alternative to the prestigious Israel's Prize -- an award handed out by the state, and largely regarded as Israel's highest honor. Thus far, almost all recipients of the Israel's prize have been members of Israel's Ashkenazi minority. The Heart at East presents an alternative that reflects contributions to Israel's majoritarian culture, that of the Mizrahim.

I'm pleasantly surprised that Heart at East has chosen me. Most Mizrahi communities are right wing. Most Mizrahi activists are not, but keep quiet about their politics in order to be able to aid their communities. Most Israeli social justice NGOs are funded by the New Israel Fund, a so-called progressive Zionist foundation.

Throughout my scholarly and activist life I just could not be a Zionist. Because of my politics and skin color, Israeli university professors had boycotted me and invested efforts to block me from the extramural grants, conference participation, and scientific publications so necessary to my economic survival. They even attempted to interfere with my UC-Davis tenure process in 1993.

In the near-decade I was stranded in Israel, I was exposed to piercing criticism about my lack of Zionism from the very communities I lived in and try to serve. But when I talked with my communities, it was from the history of the racinated wounds Zionism inflicted on us, not from the wounds of the Nakba. Mizrahi communities are so overwhelmed with issues of daily survival that they find it a discursive luxury to deal with the Nakba. The Mizrahim are already living with their own catastrophe.

I offer you all my gratitude for your support and solidarity along the years.


Here's the link to the Heart at East letter with the awesome news:

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Comment by Keith Hart on May 20, 2013 at 9:33pm

Congratulations, Smadar, and thanks for sharing the news with us here.


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