0 Comments 09 October 2017

Each year, Rabbis for Human Rights publishes a spiritual harvest (“assif”) for Sukkot. In this brief overview we present positive trends in the field of human rights and social justice in Israel over the past year (5777 according to the Hebrew calendar which corresponds to 2016-2017). In addition, we highlight the achievements of Rabbis for Human Rights.

Sukkot harvest

We believe it is extremely important to put an emphasis on positive trends even during challenging and difficult times. The vast majority of these achievements have not been granted to us by good will – rather, they are the result of sustained and persistent struggles. These successes show us we still have quite a bit of ability to make an impact and promote rights.

In Jewish tradition we celebrate the harvest on the holiday of Sukkot. We symbolically view the ability to see the image of God in every person as a kind of harvest, and we offer you that harvest herein. In this abbreviated collection we remember: “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it” (Pirkei Avot 2:21).

Positive Trends in Israeli Society in General:

An achievement for the struggle of the disabled and the social organizations that supported them produced an outline that, despite all its shortcomings, will increase disability pensions and is linked to the average wage in the economy (ensuring the pension will not erode and leave the disabled behind once again). Although this is not full resolution of the issues faced by the disabled, it represents an important step forward. For a detailed [Hebrew] analysis of the disadvantages and advantages of the first draft go here.

The implementation of the Public Housing Transparency Law (promoted by the Public Housing Forum, of which RHR is an active member) which protects the rights of tenants from the abuse and failures of housing companies was an important success this year. Additional information is here [Hebrew] and here [English].

On an International Scope:

Israel was the only country in the world to declare support for Kurdish independence. We proudly welcome this recognition and hope from it that the national rights of the Palestinians will also be recognized.

International humanitarian aid to neighbors far and wide: An IDF aid mission helped earthquake victims in Mexico, while Israeli governmental agencies and civilian bodies (such as youth movements) are working to provide humanitarian assistance to the victims of the war in neighboring Syria. We should take pride in these actions, not as a means to whitewash wrongdoings by Israel, but as a symbol of how to behave properly towards other people and nations – both near and far.

Concerning ​​Palestinian Rights:

For the first time in a number of years, we find it difficult to pinpoint a significant positive trend in Palestinian rights that extends beyond specific achievements. We’d be happy to add information about such trends if we can get new information. Even after over fifty years of military control over the Palestinians, we do not lose hope for positive changes and an end to the military and discriminatory regime against the Palestinians.

Positive Achievements of Rabbis for Human Rights:

Concerning Palestinian Rights:

Once again, we helped the farmers of Far’ata to withstand intimidation and threats from the illegal outpost of Chavat Gilad, allowing them to complete their agricultural work during the plowing season. Additional information here.

The fruits of legal success: Palestinian farmers managed to work their lands near the illegal outpost of Avigayil following the orders of the High Court. Additional information here. 

Concerning Social Justice:

Significant changes were made in favor of people living in poverty during discussions on the Insolvency and Economic Rehabilitation Bill. These changes, if included in the law,  would protect the rights of these individuals in debt to receive economic rehabilitation assistance. Additional information here [Hebrew]

The International Day for the Struggle against Poverty again broke records for attendance at the Knesset, and significant discussions were held in various committees. Additional information here. 

Concerning Urban Renewal (a process wherein weaker populations are especially vulnerable to):

Following the implementation of the Urban Renewal Law and the work of Rabbis for Human Rights with our partners and community members, the Housing Ministry called for the establishment of municipal administrations for urban renewal. Placed within these administrations will be a community worker who will help residents reach a beneficial agreement for themselves, especially with regard to apartment owners living in poverty who often find themselves up against stronger and more knowledgeable entrepreneurs and “brokers.” This is a process of strengthening tenants vis-à-vis entrepreneurs, so that their interests will also be reflected in the framework of the urban renewal agreements.

The organizers’ law passed by the Knesset included amendments put forward by Rabbis for Human Rights that:

  •  Expand the ability of tenants to be released from contracts also in TAMA 38 projects [a national level planning schema for strengthening buildings against earthquakes].
  • Require 40% of apartment owners be present and the publishing of a protocol to all apartment owners.
  • Apply the law to contracts signed before its enactment.

These amendments will allow apartment owners in the process of urban renewal much more protection.

Concerning Those Living in Poverty & Debt:

Our Hadera Rights Center successfully helped prevent overcharging by cellular companies in dozens of cases this year. The repetition of such cases raises the suspicion that, at the very least, no efforts are being made by companies to refrain from mistakes or failures that benefit companies and harm civilians. Those who turn to us are people who live in poverty and have limited knowledge and ability to navigate these large telecommunication companies. For them,  hundreds of shekels of debt can easily be devastating.

May the harvest of the new year rise above last year’s harvest. Happy New Year!

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