British Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights has thus far organised two trips to Israel and the West Bank.

In February 2012, twelve Liberal and Reform rabbis and ten lay people took part in a trip to Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories. The purpose of the rabbis’ visit was to gain a better understanding of the work of Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) and the issues faced by both Israelis and Palestinians in their daily lives.

Olive Tree Planting

Planting olive trees on Tu B’Shevat

The trip was lead by Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism and Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism. It allowed participants to meet, study and travel with a series of inspirational and charismatic RHR rabbis and their professional colleagues trained in law, education and civil rights.

The rabbis looked at issues at a grassroots level including the Separation Wall and its consequences, attacks by settlers on Palestinian property and mosques in the West Bank and issues facing the Bedouin population.

Based in Jerusalem, the rabbis also learned about RHR‘s work in Israel where over half of its projects are based. These include the empowerment of women, countering the effects of poverty and a Human Rights Beit Midrash at the Hebrew University which trains people for work in this field using the study of Jewish texts and traditional Jewish values.

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner reflected: “Despite the enormous challenges facing Israelis and Palestinians, my overriding feeling coming out of this trip is one of hope. We came home feeling unexpectedly positive. The beacon of social justice is being held by RHR and its partners and real progress is being made, in action and awareness. A love of Zion – being a Zionist today – necessitates a commitment to redressing injustices wherever they occur, in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence. The planting of olive trees for Tu B’Shevat during our visit was a powerful statement of our hope for a better future.”

To read a post by Rabbi Howard Cooper reflecting on his experience as a participant on the trip click here.

The next trip of British Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights is planned for November 2014.