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

Education, General, Justice in Israel, Justice in Israel-Negev Bedouin, Occupied Territories

International Student Programs and Study Tour Dates – 5775 (2014-2015)

No Comments 14 October 2014

RABBINICAL, CANTORIAL, AND EDUCATION STUDENTS: Get involved and learn how Israel can truly embody  our highest Jewish values! Join us this year in any number of ways and study the profound connection between human rights and Judaism. RHR offers student tours, service opportunities, and internship possibilities in a range of areas focusing on everything from socio-economic justice in Israel and the Negev Bedouin to African asylum seekers.

NOTE: While these programs are specially geared towards international students in rabbinical, cantorial, and Jewish education fields, they are open to all.

Continue Reading

Occupied Territories

Mosque burned in early hours in Palestinian village Aqrabah

No Comments 14 October 2014

Palestinian residents of the village Aqrabah discovered that the mosque had been overnight (early Tuesday morning, October 14t 2014) in an apparent “price tag” attack.  The first floor of the mosque was burned, with damage done to the carpet, the walls and to copies of the Koran. Continue Reading


RHR annual Sukkot assif rukhani-spiritual harvest 5775

1 Comment 08 October 2014

Please find here RHR’s annual assif rukhani, or annual harvest, for Sukkot. The assif is a place for us to celebrate our accomplishments, both as Israelis and as an organization. We hope you will find that we really do have a lot to be proud of as Israelis, and we invite you to celebrate the many accomplishments RHR achieved this year as an organization alongside us. Chag sameach!

Etrog, silver etrog box, and lulav. PHOTO: Gilabrand CC-wikipedia

Etrog, silver etrog box, and lulav. PHOTO: Gilabrand CC-wikipedia

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Sukkot Thoughts 5775: How to make Sukkot the season of our joy

No Comments 08 October 2014

How to Make Sukkot the “Season of our Joy”

Sukkah in Jerusalem. Photo Gilabrand. CC-Wikipedia

Sukkah in Jerusalem. Photo Gilabrand. CC-Wikipedia

Sukkot Thoughts 5775
Rabbi Arik Ascherman

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Please find here the link to our annual assif rukhani-(spiritual harvest) and to our new ushpizin posters (PDF). Traditionally, we invite seven male guests from the Jewish tradition into our sukkah. Today, many are more creative, even inviting women guests. Our ushpizin are those who experience all year round what we experience living the seven days of Sukkot in the fragile sukkah.

I can hear some of you now, “But when we were struggling with the RHR vidui (Yom Kippur confession), you promised us that in Sukkot, zman simkhateinu (season of our joy) things would balance out. Now you are sending us something else depressing, and asking us to hang it in our sukkah?”

Firstly, take a look at our “assif rukhani.” We really do have a lot to be proud of as Israelis, and RHR had quite a few accomplishments this year. With all of the challenges to our democracy, it remains strong and lively inside the Green Line. In our hearts, most of us Israelis want peace and value human rights. Even if the reality is a often quite different, we truly aspire to be a good and moral society. We have a High Court that is willing to stand tall against pressure…See the whole list.

But, what about those ushpizin? The truth is, one of the reasons we have delayed posting the ushpizin is that we were discussing this very question. Should we be reminding ourselves of those in need of God’s sukkat shalom (God’s sheltering sukkah of peace) during zman simkhateinu? Here are my answers:

Firstly, our sages decided that we should read Ecclesiastes on the Shabbat of Sukkot precisely to balance out our joy, and this is also one of the reasons we dwell in the fragile sukkah. The self satisfied farmer who had just brought in his harvest in ancient times needed to be reminded that the blessings he enjoyed were dependent on God’s sheltering presence. We also temper our joy by removing drops of wine from our cup at the Passover seder, and break a glass at a wedding. When people ask me why we need to remember Jerusalem at a wedding, when we have already returned to Jerusalem, I remind them that there is the “Earthly Jerusalem” and the “Heavenly Jerusalem,” representing the ideal world we and God aspire to. The job of every couple, even at the peak of their joy, is to remember that, in a not yet ideal world, in which the gap between “Earthly Jerusalem” and “Heavenly Jerusalem” is still great, the home they will build together must contribute to the repair and healing of our world.

But, there is something else as well. Yes, our sages were worried that we not rejoice too much. However, for many of us it is difficult to rejoice when our world is in the state it is in. We add to our joy and are inspired by the possibility of connecting between our joy and our task in this world. The sukkah becomes more meaningful when we reflect on the spiritual message of the sukkah, and our role in emulating God’s example by providing shelter and protection. We see it as a great privilege to be able to do this, and our faith is that we can bring closer a world in which God’s sukkah (shelter) of peace is spread over the entire world and all humanity.

Khag Sameakh – For a Truly Joyous Sukkot,


Link to view and download Ushpizin posters

Link to read and download assif

Occupied Territories, Press Releases

Olive Harvest in the Occupied Territories starts with a number of serious incidents

No Comments 07 October 2014

PRESS RELEASE | Oct 6th 2014

As the olive harvest begins, a number of serious incidents have been reported in the Occupied Territories. 

 Every fall, Rabbis for Human Rights brings hundreds of volunteers to work side-by-side with Palestinian farmers during our Olive Harvest campaign. Our presence provides protection against possible settler intimidation, enables farmers to pick within the limited number of days that they can safely do so, and has also become an act of solidarity between Israeli Jews and Palestinians.

Unfortunately, the start of the harvest season was marred by a number of incidents of vandalism and destruction, some on land that farmers do not visit regularly during the year, so it is difficult to know when the destruction occurred. A few dozen mature olive trees were discovered cut down in Yasuf; most where cut at the bark of the tree, causing severe harm to the tree that we have not seen for some time.

Additionally, 15 trees were cut in Burin, along with a similar number in Aqrabah, along the Detroit Road where it was reported that settlers attempted to disrupt the harvest by expelling Palestinian farmers and giving orders to soldiers.

The legal proceeding from these acts are being handled by Yesh Din, who add that:

“It is important to note that even though the Israeli army has publicly committed to having its forces ready and reinforced in the run-up to the harvest, with special focus on well known friction zones, the severe damage that was reported today occurred exactly in the most predictable spots.”

Rabbis for Human Rights also adds that there is a Biblical prohibition against the destruction of fruit trees. We continue to work against this wasteful, hateful violence.








RHR Field Worker Zakaria Sadah with DCO as they investigate trees cut down in Aqrabah

RHR Field Worker Zakaria Sadah with DCO as they investigate trees cut down in Aqrabah

More photos

For information on how to volunteer with RHR and assist Palestinian farmers safely harvest olives in the Occupied Territories click here.

Related media:

Dozens of olive trees destroyed in the West Bank in run-up to harvest, Ynet


DOWNLOAD NOW: Original human rights themed posters to decorate your Sukkah!

1 Comment 07 October 2014

Rabbis for Human Rights is pleased to invite you to download these original human-rights themed posters for your sukkah! With one for each day of the holiday, each poster features a different “ushpizin” or exalted guest — someone in need of the sheltering presence the sukkah provides year round.  Continue Reading

Justice in Israel, Legal Work

His day in court: Legal victory marks step forward in the fight to save public housing

No Comments 06 October 2014

RHR Advocate Becky Cohen-Keshet specializes in public housing in Israel. On Thursday October 2nd, the day before the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, where Jews atone for their sins and believe their fates for the coming year to be sealed, she achieved a victory for public housing at the High Court. It is our hope that this case will act as a stepping stone in our struggle to save public housing in Israel, so that all those in need of a stable, safe home will have one.   Continue Reading

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