Israeli NGO Operating in the West Bank Financed by Two Ministries, Against Regulations

Regulations approved by Justice Ministry say a body that receives money for farming volunteers cannot also receive money from Education Ministry

Hashomer Hachadash volunteers working in Kibbutz Nirim in southern Israel, 2017.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Both the education and agriculture ministries are financing an NGO that operates volunteers in agricultural work, contrary to Agriculture Ministry regulations that ban double funding.

The NGO Hashomer Hachadash, which fights crime against farmers in the north and southern parts of the country, received 8.7 million shekels from the Agriculture Ministry and more than half a million shekels from the Education Ministry in 2018.

Since 2012 the Agriculture Ministry has been financing NGOs that operate farm-related volunteers. The ministry pays 75 percent of every volunteer’s cost, providing he works 200 hours a year. In 2018 the ministry earmarked 15 million shekels for this purpose, allocating Hashomer Hachadash more than half that amount.

The movement Dror Yisrael received 1.8 million shekels and various NGOs also received money, among them a pre-military school Yatir and Hashomer Yosh, which operates in the West Bank.

Agriculture Ministry regulations approved by the Justice Ministry say that a body that receives money for farming volunteers cannot also receive money from the Education Ministry, in order to prevent double funding.

The ministry’s criteria for allocating funds to organizations stipulate that it will not support an activity funded in some other way by the state or a public institution supported by the education, culture and sport ministries for operating one-year volunteer programs.

Despite this, Haaretz has found that at Hashomer Hachadash’s request, the Education Ministry approved an allocation of 1.4 million shekels for the NGO, which received 555,000 in 2018, 286,000 in 2019 and is expected to receive the rest later on.

The Agriculture Ministry is not taking any action to get the money back, despite its own regulations.

Hashomer Hachadash was founded in 2007 ostensibly to fight crime against farmers. The founders, Yoel Zilberman and On Ripman, portray themselves as representatives of modern Zionism – the contemporary way to continue the cause of Hashomer organization from Zionism’s early days. Numerous politicians and donors are eager to contribute to the NGO.

Hashomer Hachadash has strong ties with politicians, mainly on the right, such as Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel and former minister Naftali Bennett.

Hashomer Hachadash describes itself as a-political, but some of its activities are in the West Bank. Among its donors in 2017 were the Central Fund of Israel, run by Jay Marcus of Efrat, which contributes to far-right organizations like Honenu, the Jewish community in Hebron, Women in Green and Im Tirzu. In 2017 the NGO had a cash income of 41 million shekels, 18.7 million of them from contributions, 14 million shekels from the state and 3.8 million shekels from the JNF.

Hashomer Hachadash said in response: The organization is funded by law and in keeping with the Accountant General’s regulations…any attempt to present receiving funds as illegal or double funding is groundless and is an attempt to smear the organization for ulterior motives. The NGO operates two one-year service programs, one of which is financed by the Education Ministry and the other by the Agriculture Ministry.”

The NGO also said that no volunteer is financed by both ministries and that each program has a different purpose. One program is “a youth movement operating in communities as part of educational farms and the other is for 12th graders who choose a service year focusing on agricultural assistance.”

The Agriculture Ministry commented: “The support for Hashomer Hachadash is carried out in keeping with the procedure for supporting NGOs under all the supervision required by law, including the provisions to avoid double funding.