Occupied Territories

Young Palestinians from SHH learn about photography & importance of documentation

No Comments 21 July 2016

 On July 20th, a photography workshop was held in the Palestinian village of At-Tuwani, in the South Hebron Hills. The workshop was led by by Ehab Tarabieh (director of photography and video at B’Tselem) and Nasser Nawaj’ah and is a product of a partnership between Rabbis for Human Rights and the Italian project “Operation Dove.”


The aim of these workshops is to train young Palestinian men and women to document events related to their lives under the Israeli occupation. Participating in the workshop are 25 Palestinian women and men from the South Hebron Hill villages of Umm El Kheir, Tuba, Susya and At-Tuwani.

In addition to acquiring basic photography equipment, the Palestinians learned the importance of documenting and providing photographic evidence to human rights organisations working to protect human rights in their region. This evidence they gather will be reviewed and archived, and is critical in that it ensures a basis for legal and other related actions.


The workshop give participants an understanding of the technical and legal aspects of  documentation, showing them various camera techniques and outlining under what circumstances and in what places photography is not permitted. The workshops are empowering for the participants, and they enjoyed meeting and learning together with peers from villages in their region.

Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: A Covenant of Peace

No Comments 20 July 2016

PLEASE NOTE: Until August, the Torah reading in the Land of Israel will be different than the Torah reading outside of the Land of Israel. This Shabbat we in Israel read Pinchas while abroad Balak which was read last week in Israel, is read. You can find last week’s Dvar Torah on Balak here.

Does the Torah truly praise Pinchas when he takes God’s law into his own hands, murdering those deemed sinners?  In her commentary to Parashat Pinchas, Tamar Avraham explores how Jewish tradition approaches zealots who seek to do the work of God, allowing peace to the fall by the wayside.

By illustrators of the 1728 Figures de la Bible, Gerard Hoet (1648-1733) and others, published by P. de Hondt in The Hague in 1728

By illustrators of the 1728 Figures de la Bible, Gerard Hoet (1648-1733) and others, published by P. de Hondt in The Hague in 1728

By Tamar Avraham

Parashat Pinchas begins with God’s stand on what happens at the end of Parashat Balak: Pinchas’ deed — his deadly stabbing of an Israelite and his Midianite partner. God’s thoughts on the issue are as follows:

“Pinchas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy.” “12 Therefore say , Behold, I give him My covenant of peace; 13 and it shall be for him and his descendants after him, a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel.” Numbers 25:11-13.

Religious zealotry for one God who has no tolerance for other gods or the worshiping of other gods is a phenomenon which is increasing and spreading in contemporary times.   The zealots of the “Islamic state” vicously murder in cold blood anyone who in their eyes is an infidel; the practitioners of other religions are considered idol worshipers, along with Muslims who they believe swayed away from the “right path.” On a much smaller scale, but with just as strong a belief in the justness of their cause, Jewish zealots act against whomever, in their eyes, worships idols or is a “renegade” Jew. One can remember, for instance, the torching of the Tabgha Church and the murder of Shira Banki in the last gay pride. It is easy for these Jews to see themselves as behaving zealously to God the way Pinchas did.

Shira Banki, murdered last year by a Jewish extremist during the Jerusalem Pride parade

Shira Banki, murdered last year by a Jewish extremist during the Jerusalem Pride parade

Nonetheless, when you read the biblical text itself and review the normative commentary or interpretations,  it is clear that Pinchas’ zeal is questioned and often challenged.

On first appearance it seems God appreciates Pinchas: He made himself into the “enforcing arm” of the Lord, imposed an “appropriate” punishment on the person who strayed from the Torah, and also blocked God’s wrath, preventing a much larger punishment from being meted out to Israel. Knowing this,  when you deepen the scope of analysis and examine each word, two statements are surprising: First of all, Pinchas and his descendants are promised “A covenant of everlasting priesthood.”  Wasn’t this already promised to Aharon and his lineage — which includes Pinchas? Is another additional covenant necessary beyond Pinchas’ priesthood because his deed may have included something that denied his priesthood? And moreover: The covenant that God made with Pinchas is a “covenant of peace.” It is difficult to think of anything more opposed to religious zealotry than “peace.” If Pinchas needed a covenenat of peace, maybe it meant that there was a need for a “tikkun” to restrain such actions in the future?

Actually, Hazzekuni (13th century French rabbi) writes in his interpretation of the Torah that Pinchas is scared after the murder that he will lose the priesthood, as is written in Brachot 32,2:

“Rabbi Johanan said: A priest who has committed manslaughter should not lift up his hands [to say the Priestly Benediction], since it says [in this context], ‘Your hands are full of blood’ (Isaiah 1: 15)”.

Hazzekuni continues and says that “because the murder was in the name of God,” God promised Pinchas the continuation of his priesthood, but nonetheless the idea that a closeness to God, as was allowed to priests in the Holy Temple, still should not be accompanied by bloody hands. This thought also comes in to play in the prohibition on David to build the Temple (Divrei Hayamim A:32.8) and in the explanation of the prohibition to not wield a sword on the altar (Exodus 20, 21). Therefore we understand that the place of weapons is to be limited, not one that is supposed to last long (See Rashi’s parashanut).

Midrash Bamidbar Raba opens up Parashat Pinchas to the meaning of a covenant of peace:

“Great is the peace granted to Pinchas because the world acts only within peace and the Torah is all peace, as it was written ‘Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peaceful”(Mashli 3, 17)

The Sh’ma prayer is finished with peace covering the people of Israel, prayer is finished with peace, and in the priest’s prayer you end with peace. Rabbi Shimon Ben Chalfta says there is no tool that holds a blessing such as peace, as it was stated “God gave courage to his people and blessed his people with peace” (Psalms 29:11, Parasha 21’1). Peace is presented here as a key value, as the meaning of the Torah and the basis for the existence of the world. Any evidence to the importance of peace by the Midrash sounds like a command to Pinchas to learn what priesthood  and God’s work is really about: Not to take the law into your own hands and kill in the name of the Lord, but rather to be tolerant even towards those you believe stray from the Torah, leaving the jealousy to God.

Tamar Avraham is a long-time supporter of RHR who works as a tour guide specializing in holy places in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. She was an active participant in RHR’s recent Torah-learning with Dr. Shaiya Rothberg

Read previous weekly Torah commentaries

Justice in Israel-Negev Bedouin

Call for volunteers: JNF working again on land at Al Arakib

No Comments 18 July 2016

JNF bulldozers arrived yesterday July 17th at the “unrecognised” Bedouin village of Al Arakib, which has been demolished 100 times. The plan is to forest over the village, and the bulldozers have started to prepare new land for planting despite the fact that the JNF said it would not continue to work in these areas until the issue was resolved in the courts or at the Knesset.

Please make every effort to go down to the village and stand in solidarity with the residents! Coordinate by calling Aziz at 050 770 1119.



JNF logo on earth-moving equipment



The JNF tried to claim they are only cleaning already prepared land. That should have also remained frozen; however, this is entirely new land prep


Already planted lands reminding us of what the plan is...

Already planted lands reminding us of what the plan is…

Field Reports, Occupied Territories

Summer is here! Time for camp!

No Comments 18 July 2016

Yesterday July 17th, Rabbis for Human Rights started work at the summer camps for Bedouin children of the Jahalin tribe living outside of Maale Adumim. We help organize a number of camp programs for these children in different Jahalin encampments in the area in collaboration with nuns from the Comboni Order— the following photos are from Abu Nawahr and Jabal el Jahalin next to Azaria. About eighty children participated between both locations on the first day, and we expect more will join in the coming days.



IMG-20160717-WA0000 (1)

The Jahalin Bedouin represent one of the most vulnerable groups living in the Occupied Territories. The community is plagued by extremely high rates of poverty and unemployment, and they live under the constant threat of home demolition and forced displacement, as the state seeks to expand settlements. Already displaced from their ancestral lands in Tel Arad, they have been forced to mostly abandon their agrarian/herding lifestyle for an urban one.

On-going instability and poverty make it difficult for the community to provide recreational and educational opportunities for its children. That’s why RHR steps in and helps organize camps for these children. The camps give them a chance to grow, develop, and play in a safe and supervised environment alongside mentors from the Bedouin community as well as international volunteers. We are also active in advocacy work, trying to prevent demolitions, while our presence on the ground helps protect the community from the threat of demolition.


RHR volunteer from Notre Dame University shows the kids what he can do…


Older boys playing soccer with Maale Adumim settlement in the background




Sister Aziza of the Comboni Order with the children


We are still looking for volunteers to work with Jahalin children at summer camp in August. Knowledge of Arabic is especially helpful. If interested, please contact Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann at 050 211 0639


Special thank you to Dr. Shaiya Rothberg!

No Comments 13 July 2016

Rabbis for Human Rights would like to thank Dr. Shaiya Rothberg for voluntarily teaching a group of our rabbis, supporters  and staff members over a period 4 months a fortnightly class (8 classes)  on the Torah of Human Rights of Rabbi Chaim Hirschensohn. Shaiya was a wonderful teacher and the material we studied with him was inspiring and very relevant to the vision of RHR.  We plan to continue a learning process for those interested in September after a break for summer vacations.







A statement of principle: human rights and terror

No Comments 13 July 2016


"The Creation of Adam" By Michelangelo - Public Domain

“The Creation of Adam” By Michelangelo – Public Domain

And God created man in God’s image, in the image of God created God man; male and female created God them (Genesis 1:27)

As Jews and as rabbis, we understand that human rights are indivisible. God created all people in the Divine Image and so endowed all of us with the fundamental rights that flow from our inherent worth as images of God’s Self. For this reason, acts of killing which are not strictly for self-defense – whether carried out by governments or by terrorist groups – are acts of rebellion against God. Such acts go against God’s decision to make us all in the Divine Image. No cause justifies it. No person, organization or government committed to God-given values can support it. For this reason, the law against murder is included in the Noahide Laws, the Talmudic statement on behavior that constitutes human beings’ shared a moral heritage, whatever our background and ethnicity.

We call on all parties to the national dispute afflicting the peoples who live in our Land to prioritize the recognition of the image of God even among rivals and enemies. We call on governments and religious leaders to cease the glorification of murderers, whatever the cause they sought to serve. We call on religious leaders to redouble our work of teaching the ways of peace, even when violence and conflict threaten us on a daily basis.

We call on governments, international organizations and religious leaders to take the lead in rejecting the de-legitimation of the other side’s religious traditions and sense of belonging to its Holy Places – be they Jewish, Muslim or Christian traditions. This is not the road to peace.

We see this responsibility of leadership as a personal one, whatever may be the dysfunctions of states, non-state groups, religious establishments and so on.

As Rabbi Hillel taught us:

“In a place where no one behaves like a full human, strive to be a human” (Pirkei Avot 3:5)


Knesset passes NGO bill (AKA “Mark of Cain” bill)

No Comments 12 July 2016

Last night the Knesset voted to pass the contentious NGO bill (AKA “Mark of Cain” bill), a new law which appears to actually be about ideological persecution of human rights and left-wing organisations in Israel. This bill might be passed, but it will not stop Rabbis for Human Rights from working to honor the Image of God in every human being.

Hebrew graphic reads: We might not have been able to stop the NGO bill, but the NGO bill will not stop us"

Hebrew reads: We might not have been able to stop the NGO bill, but the NGO bill will not stop us”



Job opening: Development Director

No Comments 12 July 2016

Come work with us! Rabbis for Human Rights is hiring…


Major responsibilities:

  • Writing and submission of proposals and reports to existing donors and foundations
  • Supervision of fundraising staff
  • Research and submission of grant proposals to new donors and foundations
  • Maintaining ongoing contacts with donors


  • Mother-tongue English
  • Experience in Grant Writing / Reporting
  • Experience preparing and managing project and organizational budgets
  • Excellent writing skills
  • Ability to research new fundraising sources
  • Well-organized
  • Deadline driven
  • Commitment to human rights

Please sends resumes to [email protected]


General, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: From Anti-Semitism to Qualities without Ethnic Boundaries

1 Comment 11 July 2016

PLEASE NOTE: Until August, the Torah reading in the Land of Israel will be different than the Torah reading outside of the Land of Israel. This Shabbat we in Israel read Balak while abroad Hukkat which was read last week in Israel, is read. You can find last week’s Dvar Torah on Hukkat here.

Despite his status as a prophet, Balaam is a loathed figure in the traditional Jewish worldview. In Rabbi Goldfarb’s  commentary to Parashat Balak, he explores the qualities of Balaam that are considered despicable. It is these qualities  all of humankind must strive to reject— so that none of us follow in the path of Balaam.

By Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb

The Prophet Balaam and the Angel, John Linnell. Public domain

The Prophet Balaam and the Angel, John Linnell. Public domain

Balak, the King of Moab, “saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites” at the end of last week’s parasha. In typical anti-Semitic fashion Balak ignored what the Amorites had done to Israel – attack them while seeking safe passage – that had led to Israel’s defending itself (Num 21:21-25). The worried Balak engages a “seer,” Balaam, to “curse” the children of Israel so that he (Balak) could defeat them and drive them out of the land.

By illustrators of the 1728 Figures de la Bible, Gerard Hoet (1648-1733) and others, published by P. de Hondt in The Hague in 1728

“Moab leads Israel into sin” By illustrators of the 1728 Figures de la Bible, Gerard Hoet (1648-1733) and others

Balaam is one of the most enigmatic characters in the Bible. Of unclear origin (his name could interpreted “without a people”), Balaam has access to God. In fact the Midrash said that he had prophetic power like that of Moses. Hired to curse, Balaam tells Balak he can only declare words which the Lord puts in his mouth, and indeed delivers four parables, each more rhapsodic than the one before, singing Israel’s praises. A Jew’s first words upon entering the synagogue, “Ma tovu ohelecha, Yakov; mishkenotecha Yisrael/How lovely are your tents (sanctuaries), O Jacob; your dwellings (study houses), O Israel,” are a quote from Balaam (Num 24:5). Yet the rabbis took a very negative view of Balaam. Balaam is blamed for inciting the Midianite women to seduce the Israelite men at Baal-Peor, the incident with which our parashah ends (Num 25:1-9), leading to crisis and tragedy in the camp. Thus, through treachery and the exploitation of human weakness, Balaam manages ultimately to curse the Jewish people, which he had been unable to do directly. The basis for this rabbinic interpretation is the mention of Balaam amongst the important people slain with the Midianites (Num 31:8, 16), suggesting that after failing to produce for Balak, Balaam had joined the Midianites in their hostility to the children of Israel.

In Pirkei Avot (5:21) Balaam is portrayed as the antithesis of Avraham Avinu – Abraham’s disciples who have “a good eye” (a generous view towards others), humility and moderate appetites (for the pleasures of the world). Balaam’s disciples, on the other hand, have “an evil eye” (they are jealous), a haughty nature and excessive appetites. The commentators find proofs in the Torah’s text for each of these traits – for good in Abraham’s case, negatively in regard to Balaam. The consequences are extreme – Abraham’s disciples will be doubly rewarded, both in this world and in the world to come, while Balaam’s disciples are doomed to destruction and the lowest pit in “Gehenom” (“hell”).

It is interesting to note that Balaam, who began as cursing/blessing Israel as a racial/religious group, becomes the archetype of evil on the human level. Abraham, the “father of many peoples,” is portrayed here as having the three key qualities a person should hope for – a healthy, non-jealous attitude towards others; humility; and control over physical passions. Balaam, the loner, is deficient on all three; people like him “drive themselves from the world” (cf. Avot 2:16, 4:28). These good qualities are not exclusive to Jews nor are they deficiencies found only amongst non-Jews. They are human traits; both Jews and non-Jews can be disciples of Abraham or Balaam. The choice is ours.

Shabbat shalom!

Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb is a member of Rabbis for Human Rights

Justice in Israel, Press Releases

The Forum for Public Housing presents Public Housing Day at the Knesset

No Comments 11 July 2016


The Forum for Public Housing presents Public Housing Day at the Knesset: Marking the Crisis of the Million

Invitation to cover: Public Housing Day in the Knesset on July 12 2016 will be led by MKs Orli Levy Abekasis, Dov Hanin, Stav Shafir, Ilan Gilon, Itzik Shmuli, Eli Cohen and Omer Bar Lev  Continue Reading

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