Author Archives: Rabbi Lea Muehlstein

Invitation to the AGM

The trustees of BFRHR would like to invite all members to the Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Wednesday 28 June at noon at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, 28 St John’s Wood Road, London, NW8 7HA. Please find the agenda for the meeting below. If you would like a copy of the financial statement please email info@rhruk.co.uk.

Agenda for AGM of British Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights to be held at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, 28 St John’s Wood Road, London NW8 7HA on Monday 26 June at 12 noon

  1. To approve the Financial Statements for calendar year 2016.
  2. The Trustees deem it appropriate that four persons continue to serve as trustees for the remainder of 2017 and for 2018 until the next AGM in 2018.
  3. The existing Trustees, namely Rabbi Daniel Rich, Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild, Rabbi Alexandra Wright and David Davidson offer themselves for re-election.
  4. Any other business.

Following the AGM, Hagai El’ad and Manal al Jabri, the CEO and Fieldworker from B’Tzelem, will be addressing the group thanks to the support from NIF.

Call on Ambassador Taub: Halt the demolition of Susiya

Dear Ambassador Taub

We are writing to you out of deep commitment to Israel and to Judaism.

The Torah teaches us that ‘the stranger who lives with you shall be as a native from among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt’ (Vayikra 19:34).

Today, the Palestinian residents of Susiya face the imminent destruction of their village, the place they call home. This is scheduled to take place between now and August 3rd. The courts have ruled that 37 structures in the village are due for demolition because they were built without permits, despite the fact the land on which they stand belongs to the Palestinian villagers of Susiya.

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Susiya FAQs

Where is Susiya?

Susiya is a Palestinian village in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank. The majority of the village is in Area C which means it is under full Israeli control and any decisions about building and civilian infrastructure have to be dealt with by the Civil Administration which is a department of the IDF.

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RHR celebrates its 25th anniversary

At 7 pm on Sunday, 6 April 2014 (6 Nissan 5774), at the Jerusalem Botanical Garden Auditorium, Rabbis for Human Rights celebrated its 25th anniversary. The evening events included:

  • Tribute to the founders of RHR and introductions to staff and management
  • A Panel: “The Role of Judaism in the Struggle for Human Rights in Israel: Current Reality and Future Possibilities.  Moderator: RHR Co-Chair Moshe Yehudai; Special guest panelists:
    Rabbi Shmuel Reiner of the Orthodox Ma’aleh Gilboa Hesder Yeshiva, member of RHR
    Rabbi Na’amah Kelman, Dean of the Jerusalem campus HUC-JIR, the Reform movement’s rabbinical school in Israel, long term RHR member and current RHR Advisory Committee member. You can read more about her here.
    Dr. Meir Bouzaglo, Founder of “Tikkun,” a think tank dealing with social issues in Israel; Founder of “Mizrakh Shemesh,” which teaches the religious traditions of Jews from Arab /African countries
    Linda Gradstein, Bureau Chief, The Media Line and Contributor to NPR

Supporting Rabbis for Human Rights and the Bedouin is an expression of Zionism

Yesterday’s event entitled “The Bedouin Community in Israel” made me reflect anew why my support of Rabbis for Human Rights is an expression of Zionism. The event was organised by the Israeli embassy in response to the public protest of Jews and non-Jews against the so-called Praver-Begin bill (for background click here). In the opening remarks, the embassy representative, a Bedouin from the Gallil-region in the north of Israel, explained that the negative headlines concerning the Praver-Begin bill were based on propaganda from, what he called, anti-Zionist groups.

We weren’t off to a good start! I seriously considered leaving the event, but then thought to myself that these views shouldn’t be allowed to remain unquestioned and decided to stick around until the Q&A.

The presentation itself focused on how Israel’s plan to resettle the Bedouin was only in their interest and a plan that focused on not leaving any Israeli citizen behind. Explaining that girls in the Bedouin community generally were not allowed to graduate from High School, Lirit Serphos (Head of Policy and Planning on the Development and Growth of the Bedouin Community) said that resettlement of the community was vital to ensure that these children would have full access to education.

In my response to her, I pointed out that the Israeli government currently fully finances a school system, namely the orthodox religious one, which results in all boys finishing school without a High School Diploma because they stop learning maths, English and science at age 10!

Of course, I believe that every child should have access to a good education but I stressed that in light of the treatment of the ultra-orthodox community it seems as if Israel is applying double standards when it comes to the Bedouin. In their case, the government seems to adopt a quasi-colonialist approach of knowing what is best for the indigenous people. Even Lirat had to acknowledge I might be onto something but then quickly added that one cannot compare the Bedouin and the ultra-orthodox community.

I explained that I was opposed to the bill not because I am an anti-Zionist or a self-hating Jew but because I am a passionate Zionist. Because I am a religious Zionist, I believe that Israel should exercise leadership in accordance with Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalts a nation;” placing justice and compassion at the heart of all policy making. I believe that Israel must show each time anew that it legislates according to the precepts of “freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel,” as stated in the Declaration of Independence. Because I am a religious progressive Zionist and a supporter of Rabbis for Human Rights, I believe that our Jewish values must be in constant dialogue with the values of contemporary society and as such, we must ensure that the rights granted, just as the responsibilities demanded, apply to all citizens of the State of Israel equally – be they Jewish or not.

That’s why we need to fight for the rights of the Bedouin as Zionists for Israel’s sake!

Take Action on Behalf of Bedouin

65 UK rabbis have written to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Welfare Minister Meir Cohen to ask them to prevent the passage of the Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev. To learn more about their letter click here.

We would like you also send a letter to these ministers protesting against the bill and to find a fair and just solution to the living arrangements and welfare of the Bedouin community in the south of Israel.

It is simple to take action! Just click here to also send a letter to protest against the bill.

Op-Eds Advocating on Behalf of the Bedouin

Two members of British Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights wrote op-eds for Jewish newspapers to draw broader attention to the situation of the Bedouin in Israel and to mobilise more support for the campaign to stop the legislative process of the Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev through the Israeli Parliament.

Rabbi Alexandra Wright wrote on June 13, 2013 in the Jewish Chronicle: ‘All is desolation and destruction’. Read the full op-ed here.

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg wrote on June 23, 2013 in the Jewish News: “Let’s show Israel is based on Jewish value of justice”. Read the full op-ed here.

He also wrote on July 15, 2013 in Haaretz: “Every Jew should see the Bedouin issue as test of Israel’s moral values”. Read the full op-ed here.

International Press Takes Note of BFRHR’s Protest on Behalf of the Bedouin

The international press has given extensive coverage to the letter signed by 65 UK rabbis under the auspices of British Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights to protest against the Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev.

UK Press

International Press

65 UK Rabbis Protest against the Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev

65 Rabbis from the Orthodox, Liberal, Reform and Masorti movements of Great Britain this week have joined together to sign a letter of protest to the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ministers Yair Lapid (Finance), Tzipi Livni (Justice) and Meir Cohen (Welfare and Social Services), demanding that they stop the legislative process of the Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev through the Israeli Parliament.

Meeting with BedouinA copy of the letter, written under the auspices of the British Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights (BFRHR) was delivered to His Excellency, the Israeli Ambassador by Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner (Chair of BFRHR) and a delegation from BFRHR on Thursday 6th June.

If the Bill is passed, it would result in the forcible eviction of 30,000-40,000 Bedouin residents from their villages in the Negev into existing townships. Moving the Bedouin, they argue, ‘disregards traditional family and kinship ties and the communal and social fabric of their villages and has already been shown to result in disastrous levels of unemployment, destitution and disillusion.’

The BFRHR letter appeals for a proper consultative process with Bedouin men and women to settle land claims and recognise the Bedouin’s historic rights to their lands, leading to the provision of proper services for their villages and attention to the long-term needs of the Bedouin. The Rabbis warn that the Bill is likely to do serious damage to the international reputation of the State of Israel.
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Chair of BFRHR said, ‘The Ambassador listened carefully to our questions and concerns. Now what matters is that this Bill that could drastically alter so many people’s lives is challenged in the Knesset as it is being challenged throughout the world.’
Spokesperson for the BFRHR, Rabbi Alexandra Wright added that the Bill is unjust and unfair in its discrimination against an impoverished and marginalised minority in Israel and that she earnestly hoped that the Ministers would, instead, provide a fair and compassionate process that would enhance Israel’s international standing.

View/download the full text of the letter click here.