Justice in Israel, Press Releases

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

No Comments 11 July 2016

PRESS RELEASE | JULY 11 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

General, Justice in Israel, Justice in Israel-Negev Bedouin

PROGRAMS FOR HARTMAN SEMINAR PARTICIPANTS 5776/2016

No Comments 03 July 2016

RHR is proud to continue our tradition for over 15 years of providing quality human rights programing for rabbis participating in seminars at the Shalom Hartman Institute. This year we have two offerings:

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Justice in Israel

Position paper: The Insolvency Law will work against Israelis Living in Poverty

No Comments 26 June 2016

The Insolvency Law will work against those living in poverty while providing preferrential treatment for the more established class

Rabbi Idit Lev at the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Commitee meeting regarding a new law on debt repayment, June 21 2016

Rabbi Idit Lev at the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Commitee meeting regarding a new law on debt repayment, June 21 2016

Rabbis for Human Right’s position paper: A new law regarding the collection of debts  will reinforce the strengthening of the wealthy class and the weakening of the disadvantaged. As a result of the law,  small debt owners will be channeled to traditional debt collection, known for being quite strict, while larger debt owners will be channeled to a debt collection system with a focus on debt rehabilitation. The position paper has been sent to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.

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Justice in Israel

The social failings of urban renewal: Haifa as a case study

No Comments 21 June 2016

Urban renewal plans are underway at an unprecedented scale in Israel today. Currently,  forty thousand housing units in Haifa are being planned, mostly in the more vulnerable neighborhoods of the city. An association of residents with the help of RHR and the municipality of Haifa’s west welfare department have pinpointed a number of  problematic factors within the plans, and offered solutions with little to no budgetory impact [Hebrew] .

Haifa tour w residents and MKS

Residents and MKS meeting together on May 29 2016

Below is an overview of these problematic urban renewal factors as compiled by the team of residents and professional:

At the Macro level:

Upgrading a neighborhood from older buildings to newer ones is usually viewed as a blessing. However, such upgrades bring with them additional fees in the price of housing (city taxes and building maintanence payments) which often results in the pricing out of the poorer populations from their neighborhoods. This means that poorer populations will be pushed farther from their social surroundings and their places of work. If this process continues to occur, it leads to the creation of more and more urban spaces that are homogenous in terms of financial status. This leads to a socio-economic segregation within the areas. These types of changes are known around the world to create serious social issues, and conflict with current best practices and consensus in western nations regarding the creation a social diversity within neighborhoods as they are developed. Diversified apartment sizes along with other mechanisms can provide a solution to economic segregation  without stopping the urban renewal plans.

At the micro level:

Urban renewal plans include residents moving apartments. These moves always are uncomfortable, but to certain populations such as the elderly, disabled, or those who are caring for a family member in such a situation, these changes can be far more harmful than simple discomfort – especially when there are alternative options.

Sometimes urban renewal includes up to three moves. 1. A move to replace housing when your original building is being destroyed and the new one is being built. 2. Moving into the new building. 3. Occasionally, resident discovers that they are unable to uphold the housing payments of the renewed neighborhood and are forced to move again, this time away from the neighborhood.

The third type of move is the most critical: As we stated, there are people who would have a very difficult time moving apartments. This holds true for the transition period and afterwards. We must remember that after the renewal, many of these people will on the one hand find it difficult to withstand the price rise but will also find it difficult to move, for example if they need to be close to certain services, family and\ or supportive friends.

For these people, according to the resident representative’s plan, solutions can be found by adding permits for extra housing units in the project, designed for rental, where part of the collected rent goes to the investor and part goes to subsidize any additional housing costs. This will not have impact on the state or the municipal budget.

Even the first two moves can be made into one. There should be an attempt to first complete the building of the new units, and then the moving of the residents, as opposed to moving first, and then building. The idea is to first build a new building on public space somewhere, and then move the residents to the new building. After this, the old building is destroyed and used as public space (community garden, community center etc). This is how you can reduce the number of moves needed, especially for the old, sick and disabled.

Lack of knowledge and assistance:

In city renewal plans the state is usually just a background figure. It is the investors, lawyers and housing contracters who try to sign the residents up with different deals including different conditions, all without due regulation. This privilege provided to the investors makes the residents vulnerable for exploitation- especially true for those with less financial means who are lacking capital and sometimes the needed knowledge and education to navigate the situation. Therefore the power imbalance between them and the real estate investors is quite pointed. Because of this, it is necessary to have urban renewal plans supported by the government and municipalities which will allow the residents to consult with experts in the fields of law and planning, as well as with social and community workers who can help residents organize and understand the precise issues needing special attention.

What has already been done:

The residents from western Haifa have been contacting the municipality and MKs for the last several months. The height of these attempts was on May 29th, 2016, in the Neve David community center, when the Knesset committee for urban renewal was hosted by activists from Haifa’s westernm neighbrohoods, who are assisted by RHR.

MK Eli Cohen together with MKs Orli Levy Abekasis, Yossi Yona, Chaim Yellin, Roi Folkman and entering coalition head David Bitton heard a professional review of the situation by activists of Neve David, Kiryat Eliyahu and Kiryat Eliezer regarding the socio-cultural barriers located in moving, then building projects, about potential problems in current urban renewal projects, and the available alternatives, some of which are not needing budgetary changes.

Haifa vice mayor Hedva Almog praised the professionalism of the representatives of the neighborhoods, and proclaimed that she is committed to cooperation with the representatives, and utilising the new knowledge gained into the process of urban renewals.

Justice in Israel

Exciting Developments at the inauguration of the new Rights Center in Hadera

No Comments 08 June 2016

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By Rabbi Idit Lev

Earlier this week we celebrated the opening of the new location of RHR’s Hadera Rights Center  together with activists, members, staff and partners of RHR  partners.

The new center, bathed in light, filled up with people. We were overjoyed to meet so many people who came to celebrate with us. Many activists shared their experiences of succcess with those present. Story after story about people that found hope and assistance at the rights center. Story after story that we know so well – and were excited to hear directly from their mouths. Nadia told about the struggle to increase the number of handicaped parking spots near the Kupat Holim (medical facility) and Aviv spoke about the beginning – our struggle and victory over the Wisconsin plan, a disastrous welfare-to-work plan. Story after story were heard.

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The presence of staff and members of organizations not from the center itself added to the excitement and the Torah commentaries that were heard for this week’s Torah portion were captivating and uplifting.

There was one moment for which there are no words.  In July 2014, Kultum Aghbariyeh, one of our centre’s leaders and activists, was murdered. When we moved to the new office we found a way to commemorate her: We established a corner for children who come with their parents and in need of activities while they wait. A small table, chairs and crayons, children’s books (we would love to get more!). In addition, we added a sign dedicating the children’s corner to Kultum. Jamila, her eldest daughter joined us. And she – who knows how to speak fluently in Hebrew is walking in her mother’s footsteps – and spoke in Arabic.

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Moments of joy and sadness. Moments of hope. Conversations about our rights, morality,  and what we are thankful – all together in an emotional evening as we begin to return to work.

 Rabbi Idit Lev is the Director of Social Justice at Rabbis for Human Rights

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It did not seem to be by coincidence that we successfully completed two requests that day which we had been working on for quite some time.

A disabled man who turned to us more than two years ago has difficulty leaving his home and is mired down by  huge debts. Our goal was to get him representation from a Legal Aid lawyer, and that he would be placed on the path for bankrupcy so that each month he would  repay an amount that would also allow him to support his basic needs. On the day of the new center’s inauguration, we were informed that finally this journey has been completed.

A woman, who is her brother’s legal guardian, had requested assistance in December in filling out forms so that the insurance company will not deduct income tax from her brother’s government assistance. We assisted in filling out the forms, turned them in, and received more and more additional forms to fill out.  Meanwhile,  each month large deductions continued to be taken out by the government. Finally, also on the day of the inauguration, she came and told us that all the funds that were taken were returned. She has yet to receive the letter but there is already a deposit in the bank.

Wanted: Volunteer receptionists who speak Russian, Arabic and Spanish for our Rights Center  serving the Hadera and Wadi Ara areas. 

Additionally, we are accepting donations of children’s book to the new center. Contact: [email protected] | 052-2003979

RELATED:

Learn more about our work at Hadera Social Justice Center

General, Justice in Israel, Justice in Israel-Negev Bedouin, Legal Work, Occupied Territories, Parasha / E-Letter, Refugees rights - UNHCR

Passover Thoughts 5776: Where is God’s Glory?

No Comments 26 April 2016

As we near the final days of Passover, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, president and senior rabbi for Rabbis for Human Rights, shares his thoughts on the holiday. Continue Reading

Justice in Israel

“I am embarrassed that the kids go to school with falling apart shoes”

No Comments 25 April 2016

“I am embarrased” she tells me “that I can’t pay for the cultural activities at school, and that the kids go to school with shoes that are falling apart.”

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General, Justice in Israel

Correspondence between RHR and the UN regarding UNHRC

1 Comment 13 April 2016

First letter from Rabbis for Human Rights to UN’s S.G Ban Ki Moon

October 19, 2015

 

Mr. Ban Ki Moon

Secretary General

The United Nations

 

Your Excellency,

 

For a quarter century Rabbis for Human Rights has served on the front lines of the human rights struggles in Israel and the Occupied Territories. We have had the honor to protect the Palestinian olive harvest year after year. We run a welfare and human rights office inside the Green Line in the city of Hadera that protects the rights of Israeli workers and the poor. We promote democracy and educate toward equality. We engage in interfaith dialogue and support fair treatment of minorities in our country. Our central guiding light is the Jewish religious concept of humanity created in the Divine Image, and therefore of infinite inherent worth.

 

We write to Your Excellency to ask for review of the modes of operation of international human rights institutions responsible for the protection of human rights in inhabited combat zones. We think this reflection is crucial in order to restore the credibility of the global and local human rights network. In that regard, we wish to call attention, in particular, to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. It is hard to find objective criteria that can justify the the record of condemnation of Israel: Since 2006 the UNHRC has issued 62 condemnations of our country. The next most reprimanded country, Syria, has faced 16. This policy portrays the UNHRC criticism on Israel as biased and unprofessional and renders it ineffective. The dysfunctions of the UNHRC impact broadly on the credibility of the work of the human rights community worldwide.  In short: by hurting the credibility of the human rights network of organizations, it hurts the struggle for human rights.

 

 

We seek dialogue with Your Excellency so as to move forward in terms of rectifying this situation that has done so much harm to the discourse of international human rights law in our time. Our task is to address Israeli society, but when the institutions of the International Community so profoundly line up in ways that are unacceptable to any fair minded person, it is understandable that the discourse within our country becomes attenuated and difficult. That is our challenge. We respectfully suggest that the promulgation of equal, universal and universally applied criteria of intervention is a primary responsibility of the family of nations. You can play a key role in bringing that about by taking action to call the UNHRC to order.

 

 

We look forward to further dialogue at your nearest convenience.

 

 

Respectfully,

 

Rabbi Amy Klein                                              

Chair                                                                

 

Rabbi Ed Rettig

Board Member

 

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The UN’s response to RHR’s letter:

Download the PDF file .

 

UNs responds

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Rabbis for Human Rights second letter to the UN

To:                 

Mohammad Ali Ansour

Officer-in-Charge,

The Middle East and North Africa Section,

OHCHR

Dear Sir,

 

Thank you for your letter of 3 November 1015, addressed originally to His Excellency Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations. We take this correspondence seriously and have devoted significant time and energy to consider our response.

 

We wish to point out that your letter did not address our core query. We noted that “It is hard to find objective criteria that can justify record of condemnation of Israel: Since 2006, the UNHRC has issued 62 condemnations of our country. The next most reprimanded country, Syria, has faced 16.”  

 

We then pointed out that this imbalance “portrays UNHRC criticism on Israel as biased and unprofessional and renders it ineffective.”

 

Most important, in the absence of explicit criteria that can determine when to focus a resolution on the perceived dysfunctions of a particular country, the imbalance in the UNHRC focus on Israel “impact broadly on the credibility of the work of the human rights community worldwide. In short: by hurting the credibility of the human rights network of organizations it hurts the struggle for human rights.”

 

We congratulate you on the numerous processes you delineated for us, including over 1000 resolutions and decisions. However, the UNHRC’s perceived dysfunctions regarding our region force us to focus our discussion. We look forward to dialogue with the UNHRC on the issues we raise.

 

In closing, we thank you for your kind comments on our work with the Palestinian olive harvest.

 

Respectfully,

             

 

Rabbi Amy Klein                                            Rabbi Edward Rettig

Chair                                                                Board Member

Justice in Israel

The Credit Database: Why we should all be concerned

No Comments 10 April 2016

Most of the Israeli Public isn’t aware of it yet, but in another two years they will awake to an economic reality different from that to which they are accustomed today. Rabbi Idit Lev explains the dangers entailed in the credit database that was recently ratified in the Knesset Economic Committee. Continue Reading

Justice in Israel, Press Releases

Amendments to Public Housing Transparency Bill passed in huge win for tenants

No Comments 31 March 2016

PRESS RELEASE | MARCH 30 2016

The Amendments to the Public Housing Transparency Bill passed, the Forum for Public Housing celebrates an end of abuse and harassment of public housing tenants 

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