Seeking Equality in Northern Ireland and Israel

The chief executive of the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland, Evelyn Collins CBE, has addressed representatives of various UK Jewish organisations at an event arranged by Northern Ireland Friends of Israel and held at the offices of the Board of Deputies of British Jews in London. 

It was the first NIFI event to be held outside Northern Ireland and was chaired by NIFI’s co chair, London-based Steven Jaffe. Steven explained it was a core aim of NIFI to learn about and promote connections between Northern Ireland and Israel. 

Northern Ireland’s Equality Commission is twinned with its counterpart in Israel, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, in an arrangement sponsored by the European Union.  Evelyn outlined the scope of the Project and what had been achieved since its launch just over 18 months ago.  She had been impressed by the very many people she had met working in different ways to secure greater equality in Israel and she also highlighted some of the challenges involved in working on equality and diversity issues in the country, both generally and for the EEOC. 

Evelyn acknowledged the differences in the histories of Northern Ireland and Israel, and the scale of the various challenges being faced in both countries, but she pointed out that addressing equality issues was not just a matter of moral fairness or to benefit the economy, but inNorthern Ireland had been central to creating and maintaining the conditions for peace. In Israel, as in Northern Ireland, external encouragement and practical help was a key to achieving progress.  

The EEOC was working to address issues affecting the Arab communities, women and the Orthodox Jewish communities in employment, both in the public and the private sector.

 Amongst those contributing to the discussion was the director of the UK Task Force (the initiative of the British Jewish community to promote the integration of the Arab communities in Israel),  and the chief executives of the UK Friends of the Abraham Fund initiatives, the Pears fund, Emunah and the Board of Deputies.  Representatives from the Israeli embassy and the Jewish Leadership Council also participated in the roundtable discussion