Author Archives: Henrietta Cohen

Our Imperative: Clinging to life, to Values of Sustainability

Some people believe that the challenges, dilemmas and hopes that engage humanity are permanent and eternal, that “what was, will be” and that “there is nothing new under the sun”. This perspective is especially prevalent in the traditional world. The search for spiritual intentionality through the regular reading of the weekly portion, even through the lens of creative commentaries, can contribute to the sense of continuity and meaning but it might also paper over the burning issues that are present, the ones that are found outside of the traditional text. Continue reading

Olive Harvest 2020: A Volunteer Report

The Olive Harvest is a unique opportunity for Israeli and overseas volunteers to learn about human rights in the occupied West Bank and stand/act in solidarity with Palestinian farmers who are under constant threats of violence and harassment by nearby settlers. Rabbis for Human Rights is now organizing the annual Olive Harvest for the 18th time. Continue reading

Update from RHR: Olive Harvest 2020

One of the major focuses of Rabbis for Human Rights work in the Occupied Territories is ensuring Palestinian farmers are given full, safe access to their lands. This is especially relevant for farmers with land near settlements, unauthorised outposts, or near the Separation Barrier. We offer our assistance throughout the calendar, but the most concentrated time of year for this work comes in fall during the olive harvest.

During this time, we bring hundreds of volunteers to work side-by-side with Palestinian farmers. Our presence provides protection against possible settler intimidation, enables farmers to pick within the limited number of days that they can safely do so, and has also become an act of solidarity between Israeli Jews and Palestinians. In the fall of 2019, RHR brought out over 600 volunteers —both international and local — for more than thirty days of work in olive groves in the northern West Bank

Rabbi Raanan Mallek: The Empathetic Imperative Warning Us about Our Relationship with the Other in Our Midst – Ki Titzeh

In this week’s Torah portion, Ki Titzeh, there is a substantial connection between ensuring justice for the stranger (the Other), the orphan and the widow and our collective will to exploit our national memory so that we may be empathetic towards the oppressed members of our society.

You shall not subvert the rights of the stranger or the fatherless; Continue reading

Avi Dabush: Reflections on being Jewish and Human Rights

Avi Dabush, Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights, spoke at the British Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights AGM last December.  This speech, discussing peacefully bringing together the different cultures and peoples of Israel, is reproduced here with his kind permission.

Avi also wrote a reflective piece on Human Rights, on the occasion of Tu B’Shvat this year, before RHR went out to plant olive trees in the West Bank where they had previously been burnt and uprooted.  Read In the Shadow of an Uprooted Olive Tree here.   Continue reading

Rabbi Michael Marmur at BFRHR AGM

At the British Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights’ AGM on 9 December 2019, Rabbi Michael Marmur delivered the below speech, reproduced here with his permission.


At this time of year we read the Torah passage relating Jacob’s dream and try to interpret what it means. There are three clues as to what it is about:-

  1. A psychological reason for the wrestling. It takes place at the Ford Yabbok, which is a word play on the consonants in Jacob’s name. It is a struggle with himself as he tries to work out how we are meant to live in this world.
  2. A struggle with God in the guise of an angel. Jacob is trying to work out a theology and a religious response. There is an element of modernity in the struggle of the human with the divine.
  3. Another possibility is that he is wrestling with the spirit of his brother, Esau, of whom he is afraid. It is a drama of not only encountering ourselves and God but what happens in the struggle with the other – our brother.

Continue reading

RHR Announces New Executive Director!

The President of Rabbis for Human Rights, Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman, the Board of directors, and the professional staff are pleased to announce the appointment of Avi Dabush— a well-known environmental, social, and political activist— to the position of Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights. Over recent months this position was held by Advocate Becky Keshet, who will now direct the organization’s social justice and public policy projects.  Continue reading

Welcome for RHR’s New President

Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman

Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman

Rabbis for Human Rights have announced their new president, Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman.  Founder of Congregation Kol Haneshama, a centre for progressive Jewish life in Jerusalem, he has also previously served RHR as Chair. Rabbi Weiman-Kelman teaches at the Hebrew Union College Jerusalem, and frequently lectures in Israel and abroad on Jewish spirituality and prayer.

We hope to bring Rabbi Weiman-Kalman to the UK after the chagim. Read the full statement from RHR here.

RHR goes up North

For the last couple of years, I’ve taught a class about ‘Religions, Justice and Peacemaking’ at Leeds Trinity University in the Theology and Religious Studies program. It has been a wonderful opportunity for my research into Israeli-Palestinian peace activism to lead directly into my teaching, by using religion in the Israel-Palestine conflict as the class topic. Among the activists I research are Rabbis for Human Rights, giving me the perfect case study around which to focus the class.

RHR doesn’t describe itself as a peace group but it certainly pursues “justpeace” as conceived by peace studies scholars. One key idea of “justpeace” is expressed by the familiar slogan “no justice, no peace.” Beyond that, “justpeace” entails an ongoing process of addressing inevitable social conflicts non-violently and with an emphasis on justice. RHR’s advocacy for social justice within the State of Israel as well as the Occupied Palestinian Territories, its practice of nonviolence, and its dedication to building reciprocal social relationships through education and interfaith work all indicate that it strives for “justpeace.”

So, what did the students learn in the class and what did they make of RHR? Continue reading