One of the moments that I think that BFRHR can be most proud of in the last few years was our campaign against the Praver-Begin Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev. This campaign ran from mid 2012 to the beginning of 2013 and was a great example of cross denominational cooperation, quick thinking, immediate action and coordinated multi-faceted response. The Bill proposed the resettlement of 30,000-40,000 Bedouin in the Negev which in effect would have been forcible eviction for this population.
Our campaign involved the following. Representatives from BFRHR met with the Israeli Ambassador to Britain, Daniel Taub. We presented him with a copy of a letter which protested against the legislation and asked for a 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. It was a great lesson in the impact of small gestures as this letter that had originated over breakfast in the home of Rabbi Alexandra Wright, was penned and signed within a very short space of time by 65 Orthodox, Masorti, Reform and Liberal Rabbis. The letter was presented to the Ambassador and also sent to Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, Minsters Yair Lapid (Finance), Tzipi Livni (Justice) and Meir Cohen (Welfare and Social Services). Additionally, when the Bill was rejected in the Knesset in 2013, Rabbi Arik Asherman in Israel told us that he believed that the Diaspora outcry had had direct impact on preventing the Bill.
Our letter became the model for similar letters that were signed by Rabbis, cantors and student rabbis across the globe. Who would have known that a small breakfast would have been so impactful?! As well as our letter, colleagues across our denominations had excellent Op Ed’s published in the Jewish press and our campaign was given very good coverage in the Jewish press.
It is of course unclear what will now happen with the Negev Bedouin but I learnt that coordinated, targeted lobbying can be more effective than I had thought previously. I want to thank colleagues who are incredibly busy but put time, love and care into protecting this vulnerable population of the Negev. As Pesach approaches, we know that at least once, we managed to learn the lessons of our past slavery to protect others and their rights.
Chag Pesach sameach, Laura
You can read more about our campaign supporting the Bedouin here.