Saturday, May 25, 2013 -
SF Eye on Philanthropy – Philanthropy in the Eye of a Storm
As I write these words, the Middle East and North Africa is in the midst of dramatic changes that will transform the face of the region and the world. Although I cannot predict how these events will ultimately unfold (it caught even the most astute analysts by surprise), what I can gauge is the impact it has had on much of the Israeli population. Following conversations with many of my colleagues and friends, it has become increasingly clear that the majority of Israelis are grappling with a concurrent sense of hope and concern. On the one hand, the hope that the Middle East can change course to reflect the ideals of liberal democracies, listen to the will of the people and act to advance the region as a whole. On the other hand, and perhaps the more realistic for most, the fear that the region will descend into an abyss of Islamic extremism that directly threatens the security of the state; a sentiment that has been echoed by many of the country's political analysts and politicians.
Where does philanthropy fit into this complex reality? Actually it is a very clear fit. The presence of foreign-national philanthropists can and will play an important role in mitigating the inherent sense of isolation, and in providing a critical sense of support at this time of uncertainty. Philanthropy, by definition, invests in the future and the country's human resources. Thus, it not only creates a sense of communal contiguity, but also represents a source of long term stability. The importance of this contribution cannot be overstated as events overtake decision-makers and spiral out of anyone's control other than the actual participants.