Protest and Support – The Dual role of Israel’s Civil Society in 2023

Opusculum 191 | 28.05.2024 | The paper takes a look at various organisations that were active in the protests to preserve democracy and examines their involvement in humanitarian aid on the basis of interviews.


The year 2023 was particularly dramatic in Israel. It started with illiberal constitutional change efforts by the new right-wing government and concluded with a brutal attack by Hamas terrorists and the subsequent war in Gaza. Both occurrences galvanized a massive surge of civil society activism. The first was an unprecedented mass protest that impeded the government’s undemocratic legislation. The second was a large-scale aid response providing services and goods to a variety of populations that supplanted the failed governmental disaster response.

The paper focuses on the groups and organizations that were active in the protest stage, most of which transitioned overnight from protest to disaster aid. While protest and service provision are two known roles played by civil society in general, and while sometimes a service provision organization takes on the role of advocacy, a transition from protest to aid within the same organization is practically unheard of. The need to change the organizational orientation within a very short period of time is particularly interesting.

We analyze this phenomenon from a serving elite perspective, which focuses on the self-perception of the participants as an elite, with major responsibilities to preserve both the (democratic) nature as well as the security of the society and the country.

Download Publication

About the authors

Benjamin Gidron is a Professor Emeritus at the Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management in Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

Hagai Katz has a PhD from UCLA Department of Social Welfare and has been researching the third sector, civil society and philanthropy since 1996.