Justice in Israel-Negev Bedouin

Update from Wadi Naam: Systematic Brutality and Oppression of the Bedouin

No Comments 30 October 2014

Below please find an update about the on-going situation in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Wadi Naam, where five residents were arrested two weeks ago and continue to be held by the authorities.

PLEASE NOTE: Because Rabbis for Human Rights was not present, we can neither confirm nor deny the claim that there was no provocation of the Israeli authorities by the Bedouin. Continue Reading

General

Prayers for Rabbi Yehuda ben Brenda v Shimon Glick

No Comments 30 October 2014

RHR calls for prayers for Rabbi Yehuda ben Brenda v’Shimon Glick, in what appears to have been a nationalist motivated assassination attempt. RHR is aware of the great tension over the last half a year because Israeli security forces have accompanied Jews to the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif, but condemns the use of power and violence to solve conflicts. We aspire to the day that access to sites holy to all of us is not a source of tension.

Temple Mount as seen from the Mount of Olives

Temple Mount as seen from the Mount of Olives

Jpost: Jerusalem’s Temple Mount closes to all visitors after shooting of Yehuda Glick

General, Justice in Israel

New Report: Israel fourth in child poverty in the developed world

No Comments 29 October 2014

new report released by UNICEF shows that Israel is fourth in the developed world in child poverty, following Greece, Latvia, and Spain. Since 2008, child poverty in Israel has increased from 35.1 to 35.6 percent.

Rabbi Idit Lev of Rabbis for Human Rights

Rabbi Idit Lev of Rabbis for Human Rights

Haaretz: Israel is fourth in the developed world for child poverty, Unicef says

Rabbi Idit Lev, Director of RHR’s Social Justice in Israel department,  responds:

This new report is yet another reminder of how dire the situation is in Israel. Poverty is an on-going issue in our society, and if it continues to be ignored, it will explode in all of our faces.

In June 2014 the Alaluf Committee, tasked by the Welfare Ministry with tackling the issue of poverty in the country, gave a number of important recommendations which, if implemented, would fight poverty by cutting it in half. The government, however, has refused to implement the recommendations, citing the cost of 8 million NIS as too high. Instead, the Welfare Minister has announced that a total of 1.7 million NIS will be used towards the recommendations, an amount that is not nearly enough to even make a dent in the problem.

Until the government is willing to take poverty in Israel seriously enough to invest in solutions, these types of damning reports will continue.

General

NOV 5: Memorial event for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin with guest speaker Avraham Burg

No Comments 29 October 2014

You are invited to attend an evening in memory of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin z”l, with guest speaker Avraham Burg. Continue Reading

General

Weekly Parasha: The Courage to be in the Minority

No Comments 28 October 2014

In parshat Lech Lecha, Rabbi Dov Haiyun explores the journey of Abraham from Ur to Haran and finally to Canaan. What drives Abraham to pick up  despite the roots he puts down, and what does his story teach us about  alliance to our own truths over alliance to a nation?

"…every human being has a soul, made in the image of God, and therefore, is himself an end…" PHOTO: Abraham contemplates the stars, 1908, Ephraim Moses Lilien

“…every human being has a soul, made in the image of God, and therefore, is himself an end, not merely a means to satisfy the desires of the regimes of tyrants. ” PHOTO: Abraham contemplates the stars, 1908, Ephraim Moses Lilien

By: Rabbi Dov (Dubi) Haiyun

 
Without any prior notice, the spirit of Abraham received Hashem’s voice, commanding him:

“Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1).

In those days, Abraham lived in Haran, where he had fled, with his father’s help, from Ur of the Chaldees. As it says in the end of the story of Noah:

“And Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter in law, the wife of Abram his son, and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees to go to the land of Canaan, and they came as far as Haran and settled there” (Genesis 11:31).

 A Persecuted Man


Back there, he was persecuted fiercely due to his dissemination of the belief in one God. He had come to Haran with no other option, as a persecuted man. In Haran, though, he earned himself the status of a respected citizen, accumulating substantial wealth and even a growing influence on the population.

After his departure, we are told:

 “And Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had acquired, and the souls they had acquired in Haran, and they went to go to the land of Canaan, and they came to the land of Canaan…” (Genesis 12:5).

And now, out of the blue, Abraham receives an order that will remove him from his brand new surroundings where he is trying to put down roots. Why?

It was not as if success welcomed him in during his first days in Haran. And Canaan is going to turn out better?

It ends up that this is not another story of migration in Abram’s life, but one of aliyah.

Go to yourself, on your own…on your path.

Go down a path that will take you away from your land, and your birthplace, and from your father’s house, from all the relationships you have known until now.

Emigrants leaving England. "The Last of England" by Ford Madox Brown

Emigrants leaving England. “The Last of England” by Ford Madox Brown

The first migration from Ur of the Chaldees was really a necessary escape, a rescue mission, whereas in this commandment, the journey is a goal unto itself.

Abraham’s Second Rebellion

Let’s imagine this scene:

Without any existential need, without any evident reason, Abraham gets up and announces to his many friends that he is leaving the city and his lofty status within it, to go live in a land completely foreign to him.

The departure of this exalted man from people left its mark, of course, on the city’s residents, wondering fruitlessly, not understanding, why he was leaving.

In effect, this wonderment itself was already an accomplishment of part of God’s goals. That is, Abraham’s journey constituted a defiant challenge, the results of which continue to echo from end of the world to the other.

This is Abraham’s second rebellion. The first declared itself in the struggle conducted against the pagan culture that dominated his early days. The rage of those regimes sent him to Haran. In his journeying from Haran, he expressed his opposition to the system itself, to the very concept of “regime” at that time.

His departure to Canaan was a protest march by one person, as an individual and not as a nation. In this hour, while everyone is rushing in their own lands to obtain citizenship and all it brings, Abraham stands up, with no man forcing him to, just obedience to the highest imperative, and sacrifices those very benefits.

The courage to stand on our own, apart from the regimes of man

In effect, this journey cries out to the people of that astonished city, and to every generation, as the greatest protest against the spiritual and physical enslavement to any form of regime. The journey on its own is a return on value.  It declares the clear truth that the individual is the basis of Judaism and of human society. And that a human being – every human being – has a soul, made in the image of God, and therefore, is himself an end, not merely a means to satisfy the desires of the regimes of tyrants.

African asylum seekers, who journeyed to Israel mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, protest their detainment in Israel's Holot facility deep in the Negev.

African asylum seekers, who journeyed to Israel mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, protest their detainment in Israel’s Holot facility deep in the Negev.

Singularly, Abraham struggled against the mainstream of his peers and towards his inner truth, and in so doing, bequeathed upon humanity the attribute of courage, courage to be in the minority and to not concede one’s inner truth. Shabbat shalom!

Rabbi Dov Haiyun

Rabbi Dov (Dubi) Haiyun is the leader of Kehilat Moriah in Haifa and a member of Rabbis for Human Rights

Previous weekly Torah portions

General, Occupied Territories

Friday, October 31: Olive Harvest Day for International Students

No Comments 28 October 2014

RHR invites study abroad students to join us on Friday, October 31st 2014 for a special day of harvesting in the Occupied Territories!

studentoiveharvest
Additional information on the olive harvest

Additional information on volunteering for the harvest

General

Apply Now: Applications open for Feb semester of Solidarity of Nations-Achvat Amim

No Comments 27 October 2014

Applications are open for the February 2015 session of Solidarity of Nations-Achvat Amim. Achvat Amim is a new 5 month volunteer experience in Jerusalem that directly engages with the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on the core value of self-determination for all peoples. Designed for young people between the ages of 21-28, the program partners with a number of regional NGOs including RHR in connecting participants to projects seeking to end racism, violence and inequality.  Continue Reading

General

RHR condemns the October 22 2014 terrorist attack in Jerusalem

No Comments 23 October 2014

RHR is shocked by and condemns in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attack yesterday in Jerusalem. We mourn the unimaginable loss of Chaya Zissel Braun, the 3 month old baby girl murdered in this horrific event. Our deepest prayers are with her family during this tragic time, and we wish for the refuah shelma (full recovery) of all those injured. Attacks against civilians are egregious crimes. Continue Reading

Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: All who are thirsty, come for water

No Comments 21 October 2014

With this week’s Torah portion, we find ourselves situated between the violent, destructive waters of God’s flood, and next week’s commencement of our requests for life-giving, restorative  rains. Within this context, Rabbi Dr. Dalia Marx remind us that water is a blessing from God, and that if we desire to control it, we must do so from a place of justice, equality and respect for all the life which drinks of it.

Rain shaft at the base of a thunderstorm. PHOTO: Bidgee CC-Wikipedia

“…we must remind ourselves that water is God’s blessing; we cannot take it for granted, and if we desire to control it, we must do this out of the recognition of the distresses that are linked to water..”
PHOTO: Bidgee CC-Wikipedia

 

By: Rabbi Dr Dalia Marx

Large and small signs of life and heralding of the seasons are encoded in the prayers of Israel. The prayers signal the changing of the seasons, the daily times, and the years, and enable those who pray to anchor themselves in a world that is felt at times to be perplexing. An example of change in nature that the prayers give expression to is the division of the Hebrew year between the rainy season and the dry season.

We have just celebrated the Feast of Sukkot when we are “judged through water”(Rosh Hashanah 1:2). During the Second Temple period, the rituals linked to pouring the water on the altar were the highlight of the holiday. The ceremonies were called “The Joy of Drawing the Water.” At the conclusion of the holiday, on Shmini Atzeret, we recite the Prayer for Rain. And thus, we have marked the beginning of the rainy season. From now until Passover we mention the rains in the blessing “gvurot” in our prayers, and turn to God “who causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall.” Next week or to be more exact, the 7th of MarCheshvan, the hope for rain is reinforced in our prayers when we add an actual request for rain:  “and give us dew and rain for a blessing.”

Many times I ask myself what did our grandfathers and grandmothers, who asked for rain in Europe – a land which is overflowing with lakes and rivers, and is rainy anyway – think? Could they feel the existential angst of the composers of our prayers for the inhabitants of the Land of Israel who were dependent on the rain for their livelihood and dreaded a drought? In the Land of Israel, however, there is no doubt that the prayers for rain were said out of a real apprehension, with a worrisome peak at the sky and the land. Rav Yehudah, one of the Talmudic scholars, expressed the importance of rain when he said: “A day of rain is as great as the day the Torah was given.” Rabbah exceeded him by saying:”More than the day the Torah was given,” while Rav Hunah said:

“The day of rain is greater than the day of the rising of the Dead, because the rising up of the dead is for the righteous, while the rainy day is for the righteous and the sinners” (Bavli Taanit 7:7).

Flash flood at Ein Avdat. PHOTO: Gideon Pisanty CC-wikipedia

Flash flood at Ein Avdat. PHOTO: Gideon Pisanty CC-wikipedia

In most cases, for us, rain is a blessing, but here, too, there are floods and deluges of the Ayalon Highway, when there is not much difference for the waterbeds of the Judean desert. Precisely, this week, the time between “mentioning” the rain and “asking for the rain” is timely (Parashat Noah), when the narrative of the flood and the description of waters so strong that they obliterated all signs of life on earth is read. Although God promised not to curse the land again with a flood, while the sages also saw a need to set a textual response to the dangerous waters in the Torah portion. This response is found in the language of the Haftarah with the glorious cry of the prophet:  “All who are thirsty, come for water!” (Isaiah 55:1).  The sages associated between water and Torah, explaining that the thirst is for words of Torah. But we can read it as the pshat, the literal meaning for what it is, may all who are thirsty come to the waters and quench their thirst. Not for nothing are these words spoken in the prophecy. We know that this is not such a simple thing:  living waters were not available to everyone in the past, nor are they available to everyone in the present.

This Shabbat, we find ourselves between “the reminder” that the nature of the world in this season is to bring rain, and the “requesting of the rain” that bears witness to the fact that we should not take rain for granted and not always are the rains a blessing in their season,   between the waters of the flood that punish, destroy and kill,  and the waters that we ask to quench, “All who are thirsty.” This is an opportunity to reflect on the significance of water for us. We associate water with purity and cleanliness, but is this always the case? In her article in the book Parshat Hamayim, the environmental quality investigator, Mirale Goldstein writes:

“Immersing in the waters of the mikveh is a physical symbol of spiritual purification. The power of the symbol derives from the understanding that water is clean and has the capacity to wash away contaminants. But what if we are afraid of untreated water? We associate water in nature with a risk of disease. Most of what contaminates water cannot be seen. Some of the causes of pollution are ancient and familiar, such as sewage. But others, such as industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals, are frighteningly unfamiliar. Moreover, humans have created and disseminated these dangerous pollutants. This state of affairs raises ancient questions about the relationship between physical and spiritual purity to a new level. Can we be spiritually pure if our physical surroundings are impure? Can we partake of the holiness of mikveh if we have desecrated the waters that fill the mikveh?”

This and more. If water is linked in our religious consciousness to justice as it said, “But let justice well up like water, righteousness, like an unfailing stream”(Amos 5:25), then how can we explain the fact that more than a billion people in this world do not have access to proper drinking water, and how does it happen in our modern era, that millions die every year from both a lack of water as well as water-borne diseases? All this is occurring while in the wealthy countries people are wasting water every day on Jacuzzis, sumptuous baths and on empty luxuries. It should be said, nonetheless, that the Israeli public is significantly different from the other developed countries. We are aware of the need to save water, many are interested in the water level of the Sea of Galilee and the awareness of “pity on every drop” is not an empty slogan in our houses. But most of the big questions connected to water and its usage beg to be answered.

Tap water. PHOTO: Alex Anlicker CC-wikipedia

Tap water. PHOTO: Alex Anlicker CC-wikipedia

Goldstein adds:

“Technology has given us the power to manipulate natural processes. With this power we adopted an attitude that we could and should manipulate them. As a result of this attitude we have damaged nature at every scale, from the local wetland to the global climate.”

And as we all know, that with a lot of power come a lot of responsibility.

Environmental groups have set this Shabbat, Parshat Noach, as a Shabbat for public awareness of environmental issues. It seems that the Israeli awareness of water, its availability, its quality and the struggle to produce and acquire it, is presented in the civil discourse more often than in other Western countries. But this awareness is not enough, neither from a strategic perspective nor from an ethical point of view – we must remind ourselves that water is God’s blessing; we cannot take it for granted, and if we desire to control it, we must do this out of the recognition of the distresses that are linked to water and the question of justice that flows from the need for it, especially in an arid zone like ours.

Waters teach us a lesson in modesty—such a simple substance, with no color or shape—grasps the key to life. Water suggests an important lesson to us in gratitude and in renewing our commitment towards God, Man and the Earth.

Rabbi Akiva says:

Fortunate are you O Israel!
Before whom do you purify yourselves?
And who purifies you?
Your Father in Heaven
As it is said, “I will sprinkle upon you pure water
And you will shall be purified.” (Ezekiel 36:25)
And it is said, “The hope (mikveh) of Israel is in the Eternal.”(Jeremiah 17:13)
Just as mikve purifies the defiled,
So, too. The Holy blessed is he purifies Israel.”
(Mishnah Yoma 8 :9)

rabbi dahlia marxDr Rabbi Dalia Marx is an Associate Professor of Liturgy and Midrash at Hebrew Union College in
Jerusalem and a member of Rabbis for Human Rights.  Her book, Feminist Commentary of Babylonian Talmud: Tractates, Tamid, Midot, Kinim was recently published.

Occupied Territories

Cows belonging to settlement sent to destroy Palestinian olive trees

No Comments 21 October 2014

Cows belonging to  settlers are sent to graze amid Palestinian olive trees in the  village of Aqraba in the Occupied Territories. Continue Reading

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