June 5th: Call for activists to protest, monitor Jerusalem Day provacations

No Comments 22 May 2016

On Sunday June 5th, Israel will mark Jerusalem Day (Yom Yerushalayim). This year, activists will gather at 5:00 pm at Safra Square on the 5th in order to protest, monitor and document the provocative displays of hate, ultra-nationalism, and racism that have been a part in recent years of the “Flag Parade” through the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.

Facebook event page

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May 24: Join Tag Meir at the Knesset for the launch of a new anti-price tag campaign

1 Comment 19 May 2016

On Tuesday May 24 2016, a new anti-price tag attack inter-party campaign will be launched in the Knesset.  It will be headed by MK Itzik Shmuli (Labor) and MK Merav Ben-Ari (Kulanu). Tag Meir, a coalition of organisations committed to fighting hate-crimes in Israel and showing solidarity with their victims, invites you to attend this important event.

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General, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly Parasha: A Source of Inspiration

No Comments 18 May 2016

PLEASE NOTE: From now 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 BeHar, while abroad, Emor, which was read last week in Israel, is read. You can find last week’s Dvar Torah on Emor here.

In his commentary on Parashat BeHar, Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann explores the significance of universalism within the Jewish tradition. As Jews we are commanded to look beyond the confines of nationalism and seek justice and freedom for all humanity. Continue Reading


Rabbi Arik Ascherman May/June United States speaking tour dates

No Comments 16 May 2016

Rabbi Arik Ascherman, president and senior rabbi of RHR, will be in various locations across the United States at the end of May and early June 2016. Please look below for a listing of events and locations.

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General, Justice in Israel-Negev Bedouin

Yom Ha’atzmaut Thoughts 5776: The Challenge and the Hope

No Comments 10 May 2016

Rabbi Arik Ascherman


The Creation of Light, Gustave Dore


This post originally appeared on Rabbi Ascherman’s Times of Israel blog here. Please click on it and share in order to make it more visible and for a longer duration. 

Ever since Holocaust and Resistance Remembrance Day last week, we Israelis can’t stop talking about the speech given by the Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan. He stated that he saw some phenomena in Israel today similar to pre-Nazi Germany, and that Remembrance Day must be a day of soul searching. I think he was saying that our strength is our ability to recognize these phenomena in their early stages, and stop them.

Golan’s remarks predictably became a source of angry infighting between “left” and “right.” The left has widely repeated his remarks. On the right, he has been accused of saying that the Israeli army is like the Nazis. There have been calls for his resignation. He hastily issued a “clarification.” His remarks have apparently been repeated in the foreign press, eliciting charges that he has given fuel to our enemies and oppressors.

Amidst this fury, almost nobody actually related to the questions Golan raised. A notable exception was actually Amnon Lord, the right wing publicist. Lord said that Golan must be listened to, that he agreed with much of what Golan said: that we must deal with these challenges as a society, and that his only criticism was that Golan issued a clarification. I asked one woman argued with me on Facebook, “Do you really think that the Deputy Chief of Staff thinks that the army he serves in is like the Nazis? Golan was accused in the past of using the forbidden protocol of sending Palestinian civilians to enter into Palestinian homes before soldiers to draw fire or to see if the houses were booby trapped. Do your really think that he is a leftist extremist?” She simply kept repeating her claims, and didn’t answer my questions.

Probably, if we weren’t so absorbed with Golan, we would be hearing more arguments between the right that liked our prime minister’s speech, and the left that liked our president’s speech.

I haven’t read our new and controversial civics book, so I must be careful. However, I heard Dr. Irit Keinan criticizing it on the radio today, saying that it promotes an ultra-nationalist worldview in which we tolerate minorities because we have to. She read a quote from the book questioning whether the court system should be able to strike down decisions made by the majority, as represented by elected officials. I also haven’t paid enough attention to the controversy in order know who has taken which side in this debate, but I am willing to bet that it breaks down according to “left” and “right.”

I recently have had cause to reflect back on the terrible High Court decision of a year ago. (I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon delegitimizing the High Court, but I certainly thought this was a bad decision.) The Court accepted the State’s argument that basic rights such as the right of a community to plan and provide shelter for its residents can only be addressed in the context of peace negotiations! The Court knew that the State had even frozen the discriminatory existing planning to punish the Palestinians for joining the International Court. The Court therefore gave its consent to making the right to housing a matter of politics. Shelter became a matter of beneficence to be granted or withheld, rather than a right.

Sometimes I hear from people living in poverty with whom we are struggling around issues of socioeconomic justice, poverty, public housing and unemployment, that their friends don’t understand why they are cooperating with an organization that also helps Palestinians.

Hearing the right claiming that General Golan had said that the army he himself serves in is like the Nazis, and the joy of some on the left to hear what he had to say, it sunk in to what degree human rights, that are supposed to be above “left” and “right,” and should ideally actually unite left and right, have become just one more instrument for bludgeoning each other in the eternal and uncompromising war between left and right. I wanted to hear more voices like that of Amnon Lord that were capable of saying that we must focus on content. Even if we don’t agree on everything, we should be able to agree on the need to weed out violence and hatred of the “other.”

The common denominator between everything I have described is that one form of modern idolatry is that we put our “camp” before the One Whose Oneness and presence in all existence makes us all One. (Shema Yisrael-“Hear Oh Israel”…) When people speak of “national unity,” I am all for unity. But, God’s Unity is much broader than “national” unity, or even humanity’s unity.

Mired in these thoughts, it would be easy to sink and drown in them. However, “As long as deep within, the Jewish (and human) heart yearns” (HaTikvah).

In April we did a comprehensive public opinion study regarding Israeli Jewish attitudes to the Negev Bedouin in general, and Umm Al Hiran/Atir in general. I need to leave you in suspense for a while longer regarding the results. I can tell you that, yes we found fear and suspicion of the Bedouin, particularly because of misinformation. However, alongside the concerns, there was a clear majority who favored fairness, equality, keeping our commitments, compromising in order to reduce tension, and pragmatism. There is a a majority of Israeli Jews opposed to moving the Bedouin against their will and for recognizing villages. There is openness. Negative attitudes about the Bedouin change when people are exposed to facts and background. There is willingness to take this information into account.

What is really encouraging —in spite of everything I wrote at the outset — is that there is no gaping divide between right and left! To be sure, the left and the center are more open to our views regarding the Bedouin than the right. However, the right also was willing to listen, be pragmatic, and desired to be fair. I don’t know what will happen to these statistics when the subject next hits the headlines and becomes a political football batted around between left and right. For now, however, the results remind me of the story related in the Talmud that the rabbis were arguing about how to transport a shofar (ritual Jewish instrument made from a ram’s horn) on days when it is forbidden to carry objects from one domain to another. Finally they decided to get out of the study hall and see what the simple folk were actually doing. The simple folk would stick the shofar in the wool of a sheep (albeit a sheep probably on its way to be sacrificed.)

When we leave people to their own devices, they often (certainly not always) display logic and carry out the yearning of their souls. When they aren’t egged on, they don’t necessarily run to their right and left wing corners, but have the capability to aspire to equality, fairness and honoring all of humanity. These are the things that are supposed to be above and beyond right or left, even if there may be arguments between right and left about how to achieve them. We saw this in our study.

There was and is HaTikvah, the 2000 year old hope to be a free people in our Land. What gives me Tikvah, hope that we may one day truly achieve this both for us and for all people, is the Jewish (and human) spirit and the soul.

Click here for a Yom Ha’aztmaut prayer for the state of Israel

Click here for a special Yom Ha’aztmaut lesson plan


A Prayer for the State of Israel: Yom Ha’aztmaut 5776

1 Comment 10 May 2016

Sundown on Wednesday, May 11th,  marks the beginning of Israel’s 68th Yom Ha’aztmaut (Israeli Independence Day). A day marked in Israel by celebration, barbecuing, and time spent with family, Rabbis for Human Rights seeks to supplement the celebration with a return to the root of the holiday— the vision laid out by the Israeli Declaration of Independence for the State of Israel. We ask all of our supporters and friends to take a moment with us from the celebrations to pray that this vision may soon be realized. Continue Reading

Education, General

Lesson Plan for Yom Ha’atzmaut: The Meaning and Limits of Freedom

No Comments 09 May 2016

In honor of Yom Ha’aztmaut, Israeli Independence Day, RHR’s Education Department is releasing  a downloadable lesson plan along with accompanying texts for use by teachers and Jewish educators. The lesson, entitled “‘It Will be Based on Freedom, Justice and Peace as Envisaged by the Prophets of Israel’: The Meaning and Limits of Freedom” is from RHR’s Independence Tractate, a unique Talmudic style commentary of Israel’s Declaration of Independence. The lesson is designed to encourage critical thinking regarding the “limits of freedom on different levels, and the conflicts that arise when freedoms are restricted  in order to safeguard other values and liberties.”


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General, ICCI

Activists join in solidarity with Palestinian woman attacked last week with daughters

No Comments 09 May 2016


Yesterday May 8th, Rabbi Ron Kronish, founding director and senior adviser to ICCI, now RHR’s interreligious department, joined the Tag Meir Coalition and over a hundred supporters in Abu Gush for a solidarity visit with Nadwa Abu Gosh, a school teacher at the Neve Shalom/ Wahat el Salaam Peace School, who, along with her young daughters and friend,  was attacked last week by a mob of Beitar Jerusalem fans: Continue Reading

General, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly Parasha: A Dose of Holiness

No Comments 05 May 2016

In this week’s commentary to the Parashat Kedoshim, Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom challenges us to throw off the chains of conflict and fear and seek a life that is holy.  Continue Reading


Yom HaShoah: In memory of those murdered

No Comments 04 May 2016

Today we remember the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust. We remember them, a piece of humanity and a part of our own Jewish body, violently torn away from us. On this day we also remember the five million non-Jewish victims murdered in the Holocaust.  May our memory of all them return to them some of the dignity they were so viciously denied.

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