With an expired “closed military zone” order the Israeli Army prohibited 200 Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) activists from planting olive trees together with Palestinian farmers, in the Yaasuf village olive groves, some of which had previously been damaged by settlers.
RHR’s Executive Director, Avi Dabush: “It is incomprehensible why the army interprets planting olive trees and eating dried fruit as ‘an attempt to disturb the public order’. It is clear that the only “order” that has been interfered with was to plant trees in accordance with the traditions of the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shvat.” Continue reading →
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 Treehere. Continue reading →
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 →
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.
“The tribes of Reuben and Gad approached Moses and the leadership saying ‘If we have found favour in your sight, let this land be given to your servants for a possession; do not bring us over the Jordan.’ And Moses said to the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben: ‘Shall your brethren go to the war, and shall you sit here?” 32:5,6
This question asked by Moses of the two cattle owning tribes is one that resonates so poignantly today. “Shall your brethren go to war, and shall you sit here?”
We have been watching anxiously as Israel has been slipping once more into war. And as we obsess over the news feeds and the reporting, the analysis and the social media links, we wonder about what is our role? how could we sit here while our fellow Jews are at war? And what is it that we should be doing?
As part of her course of study, Reut Schwartz, student at RHR’s Beit Midrash for Human Rights – operated jointly with Hillel: The Center for Jewish Life on the Hebrew University Campus in Jerusalem, is conducting her field work at Koach La Ovdim – Democratic Workers’ Organization. She has taken over the work of last year’s Beit Midrash student Noa Regev as an organizer for afternoon day-care workers in Jerusalem. Soon, the workers will elect a representative committee, which will begin negotiations with the employers (the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israel Association of Community Centers)
“Today, I am doing all I can to make sure that there will be democratic and accessible elections for all the workers,” Reut reported excitedly.
Reut is helping prepare the logistics and content for the elections conference. She is meeting workers in the various neighborhoods, writing letters to voters and making sure that all the workers receive the letters and are aware of the coming elections. Reut is in contact with the workers’ leadership, and at the same time is making sure to mobilize and empower more workers to take on leadership roles. Today, there are two important positions that must be filled: representatives on the elections committee and representatives willing to run as candidates for the workers’ committee. Making the elections accessible to all of them means making sure that each worker has the opportunity to go to the polling place on a day and at a time convenient for her. In addition, Reut is working with the guidance team to ensure that each neighborhood has a representative on the committee because each neighborhood needs its own representative and it is important that each neighborhood is heard in the negotiations with the employers. The success of the elections – regardless of which women will be elected to the committee – will guarantee the livelihood for the women and their ability to have power and influence over their working conditions.
For more information on the work of RHR’s education department click here.
Rabbis for Human Rights are drawing attention to an interagency call to end demolitions:
The Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes and property and the number of Palestinians displaced by these demolitions reached a five-year high in 2013. Throughout the period of peace negotiations in 2013, demolitions accelerated across Area C and East Jerusalem, with a 43 percent rise in demolitions and a 74 percent rise in displacement compared to the same period in 2012.
International and local aid organizations have faced increasingly severe restrictions in responding to the needs created by the unlawful demolition of civilian property, in violation of Israel’s obligation to facilitate the effective delivery of aid. In 2013, 122 residential and livelihoods structures provided by international donors were demolished by the Israeli authorities. In addition, at least 65 items of aid, including tents, were confiscated.
Such demolition of civilian property violates international humanitarian law, which prohibits demolitions unless rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.
In light of the alarming trends, we the undersigned local and international faith, aid, development, and human rights organizations call again for an immediate halt to the demolitions of Palestinian homes, and for Israel to facilitate immediate, full and unimpeded humanitarian access so that aid can reach people in need.
1. Action Against Hunger (ACF)
2. American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
3. Al Haq
4. Broederlijk Delen
6. Christian Aid
7. CCFD- Terre Solidaire
10. Handicap International
11. Heinrich Boll Foundation
13. medico internationa
14. Norwegian Church Aid (NCA)
15. Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)
18. Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH)
19. Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA)
20. Quaker Peace and Social Witness (QPSW) 21. Terre des Hommes CH
22. Terre des Hommes Italy
23. Solidaridad Internacional-Alianza por la Solidaridad (SI- APS)
25. World Vision West Bank- Jerusalem- Gaza
*The above figures were all compiled using data available from UN OCHA’s Protection of Civilian Database from 1 January 2009- 31 December 2013. The database records a total of 663 demolitions in 2013, 390 of which occurred in the Jordan Valley. In 2012, the database records a total of 172 demolitions in the Jordan Valley. Between 28 July 2013 and 31 December 2013 there were 286 demolitions resulting in the displacement of 452 people, as compared to 200 demolitions displacing 260 people from 28 July 2012- 31 December 2012
Rabbis for Human Rights opposes violating the rights of suspects under investigation, even in cases of severe hate crimes. Rabbis for Human Rights applauds the signs of a new determination on the part of law enforcement authorities to bring to justice perpetrators of hate crimes (“price tag” attacks) against Palestinian subjects in the West Bank. We are proud that we assisted residents of Far’ata to report the incident of cars being set on fire, and that we connected and mediated between them and police officers, prior to the case being passed to our colleagues at Yesh Din.
However, as much as we would like to see the perpetrators of hate crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank brought to justice, this must not be accomplished through proceedings which violate the rights of the suspects.
At this time, there is reason to suspect violation of the rights of the three suspects who, according to yesterday’s (Feb 5th) reports, were indicted in the car arson in Far’ata. If these suspicions are correct, we view this matter as gravely problematic.
We are aware of the significant difficulty security forces face in gathering evidence against suspects in such crimes, but are certain that there are other means of gathering evidence – which require investment of resources and manpower – which do not violate the rights of the suspects. We wish the security forces complete success in eliminating the desecration of God’s name that is “price tag” attacks.
A great deal of effort is made by RHR in Israel to offer teaching on Jewish ethics to young men and women about to start their military service. One important source for their studies is the Israeli Declaration of Independence with detailed references to the traditional Jewish teachings on which it is based. We reproduce below one page from their specially created “Tractate of Independence – Massekhet Atzma’ut” – anyone who would be interested to see more and possibly run some teaching sessions in their own communities should contact Rabbi Nava Hefetz at RHR Israel for more information.