Tag archive for "Amidar"

Education, General, Justice in Israel

Giving answers to public housing residents: An RHR intern on her public housing field work

No Comments 20 April 2014

Reut Srugo interviews Natalie Levy on behalf of the Practicum newsletter of the Department of Human Services at Yezreel Valley College (In Hebrew). Natalie is participating in a practical training course for the public housing residents’ empowerment groups as a part of a project with Rabbis for Human Rights. Two years ago, the practicum project earned first prize at a Yezreel Valley College contest (link in Hebrew). In addition to greatly influencing the field itself, the project has also had a powerful impact on the students themselves.


Natalie, tell us about Rabbis for Human Rights.
The organization works to promote weak populations in various fields and exerts pressure to help defend the rights of minorities in Israel. We are working in the field of public housing to help people claim all of their social rights and deal with the bureaucracy at the Ministry of Housing and Amidar, the state-owned housing company. As part of our work, we visit with people in housing units and we conduct empowerment meetings, which is a really central component of our activity.

What are empowerment meetings and why do they matter?
In a tough neighborhood where most of the housing issues are concentrated, there’s a meeting with the residents of the apartment buildings once a week. The goal of these meetings is that by the end of a three month period, every building will have a person who is in charge of helping out with the residents’ referrals, who will direct the group and serve as their leader in the future. Rabbi Kobi Weiss, our facilitator, gives them tools for how to operate, what they need to do for themselves, instead of expecting things to be handed to them. As part of the meetings, rabbis come and run study sessions. Even the mayor came to one of the meetings. We seek to expand our project to new neighborhoods and to provide a solution to all public housing residents.

Do you feel like you got something out of participating in the practicum this year?
The internship gave me a network of contacts and I learned how to speak in front of an audience and also how to better talk to people. I gained exposure to Israel’s public housing problems and to the fact that there really are people in desperate situations. I learned how to approach people with empathy, to not attack, and in other situations to be assertive, how to listen and what to do to help them. The theoretical knowledge that I learned in class helped, obviously. One other important thing that I learned this year is not to judge people based on stereotypes.

WATCH: Our project to empower public housing residents in Beit She’an got into the top 5 at the Yezreel Valley College competition! The presentation was made by the students Tair Nassi and Natalie Levy (in Hebrew):

Do you feel that your practicum with Rabbis for Human Rights influenced your identity as a woman working in human services? If so, how did that look in practice?
Yes. On a personal level, it changed how I see the field that I want to work in. As in, not necessarily in recruiting and placement, but the social aspect – I guess I now prefer to do active work in the field rather than office work. At this organization there’s only a little bit of administrative work like entering people’s telephone information and there’s a lot more activity out in the field. This semester showed other elements that you don’t see in every organization. Last year I was in a more administrative role. This year I discovered that there is a lot of room to be creative. I’m a person interested in building creative solutions, and here I learned that it’s possible to integrate that approach into your practicum, to go beyond just doing office work. It’s important to me to bring my own voice into my work.

Did you ever get the feeling that you were doing something not related to your practicum?
There were a number of situations like that – it makes sense that more situations like these will take place, like in every organization. When that happens I say to myself, if this is what my manager wants me to do then it’s fine, I don’t need to worry that they are taking advantage or wonder whether it’s ok. Instead I should go with it, do what they expect, but make sure I get explanations for what I’m doing. Also, my facilitator was always trying to make me feel good, and was considerate, calming and supportive.

What would you like to accomplish by the end of the year?
I want to win the department’s outstanding project award this year. In my opinion, every student in our program wants to earn that honor. When they consider you for the outstanding project award, it means that your work is visible, that they see that you worked for the organization. That kind of recognition would bring me satisfaction both on the inside and on an external level.

In your opinion, when you enter the job market, will you have an advantage over students who didn’t do a practicum?
Of course. Last year I was in a recruitment and placement office and I got to know people who didn’t do a practicum and lacked experience. You learn a lot from your facilitator in the field alongside guidance from lecturers in class.

From the the newsletter of the practicum for the course in social services at Yezreel Valley College (page 6 in Hebrew) | More about the empowerment groups in Beit She’an (also in Hebrew)

General, Justice in Israel, Press Releases

Press Release: Instead of Succot, building a house for one who has none. Published on the blog of Rabbis for Human Rights

No Comments 02 October 2012

Israeli police evicted on a single mother, Rachel, and her daughter, from their apartment, owned by the public housing company of “Amidar”, in the city of Yavne, January 23, 2012. The company forced the family out of the apartment and sealed the house, although they were living there since 1967, without offering them any other housing solution. Keren Manor/Activestills

Rachel Levi-Davida, a homeless woman from Yavne, who was evicted from the Amidar flat where she had grown up, intends – with the help of activists –  to build a wooden house instead of a Succa during Succot, and to make it her permanent home. 8 months after her eviction, she has no other way out.

Rachel Levi-Davida calls on other homeless men and women to follow her example and set up such social “outposts.” She hopes to slowly create a trend whereby vulnerable citizens take control of their fate and build themselves housing without government help: building a home in place of the one seized by the state. Continue Reading

General, Justice in Israel

Being poor in Israel

No Comments 31 July 2012

Protest for public housing, Jerusalem, Israel, 26.7.2012  Protesters shout slogans in front of the house of Housing Minister Ariel Atias in Jerusalem, during a protest for public housing on July 26, 2012.  Photo by: JC/Activestills.org

Rabbi Idit Lev, looking back in a moment of reflection, following the death of Moshe Silman Continue Reading

General, Justice in Israel

Stop (again) the eviction of the Al-Aju family

1 Comment 03 July 2012

Photo of Abed al-Razak and  al-Aju  from the site “Solidarity Sheikh Jarrah”

(This post was first published on the site “Solidarity Sheikh Jarrah”)

The al-Aju family’s struggle is part of the national struggle of families in public housing for their rights to decent housing and against the greed for profit of Amidar. See event on Facebook.

It’s nowover a year since the extended al-Aju family, numbering 8 nuclear families and more than 50 people, have been fighting against the eviction orders of the public housing company, Amidar.  In April2011, in July , and again last January, we succeeded in preventing the eviction of members of the al-Aju family from their homes on17 Yehezkel Street, Ramle.  The family has lived in this site for more than 50 years.  In 1948, during the war, Abed al-Razak al-Aju and his family fled from their house in Lod but, on their way toJordan, they were stopped by forces of the Israeli army.  They could not return to Lod and in 1960 they rented an old, crumbling house in Ramle and the small area around it from Amidar, which managed the assets expropriated by the state.  Today, members of the extended family are weak in resources and they are exactly the people for whom the public housing company was set up.  However, instead of helping the family, Amidar insists on throwing them out into the street in order to sell the land at a profit, and without offering alternative housing.

The attempt to evict the family is yet another of the many eviction orders hanging over the heads of many families.  The Development Authority and Amidar which manages its assets have declared war on mixed cities, with the aim of strengthening the policy of separation followed by the Israeli state.  Many Palestinian families have been turned out in an attempt to drive them from the cities and to house in their place a stable Jewish population.  Many Palestinian families have found themselves evicted for a second time.  The practice of destruction, expulsion, and making the area Jewish being carried out  today on members of the al-Aju family has also been carried out against many families in Ramle, Lod, Yafo and other mixed cities

At the beginning of July, Amidar issued a flexible eviction order for three months for the house of Abed Razak al-Aju, 84-years’ old, who today is registered as an invalid.  Another eviction order is due to be executed on 16.7 for the home of two other families Amin and Nawal al-Aju and their five children and Muhmad and Sajda al-Aju and their eight children.

Abed Razak and Ibrahim al-Aju and their family are determined to fight for their right to stay in their house and their right to housing.  We demand that Amidar rescind the eviction order and open a dialogue with the family in order to find a suitable solution.

Join us, because social justice is not just a slogan.

What can be done:

1. Join the campaign of letters to Amidar, the Housing Ministry demanding the stopping of the eviction and opening a dialogue with the family.  At the bottom there is a draft of a letter with e-mails and fax numbers.  Take a few minutes to send e-mails to the relevant offices.

.2. Join the group supporting the family (in shifts), for registration and further details: 0522211083. You can also register electronically.

3. Distribute this post and the attached links.

You can fax a letter to the authorities about Abed Razak al-Aju  free using the following site: http://www.freefax.co.il/upload-fck.php

General, Justice in Israel

A small sink tells a big story: a report from Beit Shean

No Comments 22 May 2012

The sink before the repair

Rabbi Kobbi Weis shows us how the public housing company goes about repairing a sink in one of the public housing apartments in Beit Shean.

Continue Reading

Parasha / E-Letter

Another eviction prevented – Acharei Mot – Kedoshim Newsletter

1 Comment 24 April 2012

In the picture: Lea Shemi holds a gas tank in case of being evicted from her public housing apartment. Her eviction was prevented due to the help of activists. Photo: Tamir Hajaj.

The Weekly Report of Rabbis for Human Rights

An Opening Word | Rabbi Arik Ascherman

The eve of Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day). Our Torah readings areb “Acharei Mot” (After the deaths) and “Kedoshim” (You shall be holy). Many times I have commented that Yom HaAtzmaut almost always falls during the week we read Kedoshim, or the week after. Is that just a coincidence? My college dorm mate Daniel Cheren once noted that, in Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones that we read on Yom HaAtzmaut, the bones first need flesh and skin and sinews. Only after that do we receive God’s spirit. As Rabbi Idit Lev writes, achieving independence was one important milestone for the Jewish people. However, she explains that we must now achieve the holiness that God demands of us. That is at least as difficult. Please read Idit’s essay and tell us what you think Zionism needs to be in our day.

Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch’s commentary to Exodus 22:20 teaches us that the Torah warns us not to repeat the “Horrors of Egypt” when one day we have a state. History has taught us the dangers of powerlessness, and the Torah teaches us the dangers of power. Power makes so many things easily accessible to us. However, Rabbi Engelman teaches us that Akharei Mot/Kedoshim instructs us how to deal with those things that are temptingly accessible, but forbidden. We look around us and see all the positive ways we have used our newfound power, and we sing Hallel. However, when we read below of evictions and threatened evictions from public housing or the demolition of homes and cisterns in the Negev and OT, and when we watch the film clip Shalom Eisner, we understand in these days of counting the omer that we have left Egypt, but still need Mt. Sinai.

With the help of “Liberated Beer Sheva” activists and our own attorney Becky Keshet, Lea Shemi’s eviction was prevented. Now starts Lea’s real fight for her home. Please follow us on Facebook where we will update all our activities to prevent evictions from public housing (the next activity is to stop the Eviction of Rivka, 61 yeas old). Shabbat Shalom. Continue Reading

General, Justice in Israel

On Leaks and Wetness in Public Housing in Beit Shean

No Comments 10 April 2012

“There are families that need bigger apartments, discount in rent, reduce debts etc.” | cc: wikipedia

Following the rainy winter Amidar received many complaints on leaks and wetness in different apartments. Continue Reading

Parasha / E-Letter

The victory of Ovadia – Newsletter of Parashat T’tzave – Shabbat Zachor

No Comments 29 February 2012

After wining his battle with Amidar, Ovadya stops his hunger strike and eats a bureka. A picture from Hamaabara” web site.

Parashat “T’tzave”: The weekly report of Rabbis for Human Rights

In Prashat haShavua of Teruma, we asked for your help for Ovadia‘s struggle against Amidar. Due to the mutual struggle of all the social activists, Ovadia Ben-Avraham stopped his hunger strike. An agreement with Amidar was reached and the eviction order for February 27th was canceled. This is additional proof that the mutual action of the social group brings results. Shabbat Shalom. Continue Reading

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

The questions we grapple with on Shabbat Zachor

66 Comments 28 February 2012

“I want to connect those successes to the breastplate of the High Priest we read about in this week’s Torah portion and the questions we grapple with on Shabbat Zachor” | Breastplate (of High Priest) cc: wikipedi

Last week we celebrated two important, if partial successes, and I want to connect those successes to the breastplate of the High Priest we read about in this week’s Torah portion and the questions we grapple with on Shabbat Zachor. 

Firstly, The  JNF confirmed statements we have heard in recent weeks that they will not plant in areas in areas where there are legal disputes over land ownership.  This is only a partial success because much Bedouin land in the Negev has already been planted, it is not clear whether this is a general principle or only relates to four specific plots in El-Arakib, we aren’t sure if the commitment not to plant includes not preparing the land for planting, the Israel Lands Authority has made it clear that they still intend to plant, we can’t count on receiving justice in the Israeli court system, and the JNF/KKL has been unwilling to explain a brief but disturbing incident recently which seems to contradict this commitment.  Nevertheless, this is a significant change from their JNF/KKL Chairperson Efi Stenzler’s declaration at a meeting of the directorate this past summer that the planting on the remains of El-Arakib would take place at the end of this rainy season, even if Beer Sheva District Court Judge Nehama Netzer issued a non-binding request not to plant before the court rules on the ownership dispute.  (Unfortunately Judge Netzer recently again confirmed that her request is non binding, and that the State has a right to proceed.)  However, the right wing sees this minor victory as traitorous.

It was so wonderful to hear Ovadia say that he was again sleeping at night, and to celebrate with him on the very day he was to have been evicted

“It was so wonderful to hear Ovadia say that he was again sleeping at night, and to celebrate with him on the very day he was to have been evicted”. Photo: Hamabara

Secondly, Amidar cancelled the eviction of Ovadia and Miriam Ben-Avraham scheduled for this past Monday.  It was so wonderful to hear Ovadia say that he was again sleeping at night, and to celebrate with him on the very day he was to have been evicted.  In the words of The Book of Esther, the day was “Transformed for them from one of grief and mourning to one of festive joy.”  (Esther 9:22) .  Again, this was a partial success.  We have yet to deal with Ovadia and Miriam’s alleged debt, and many more evictions were scheduled this month in Jerusalem alone.   However, as we are taught in the Mishna, “One who saves a single life, it is as if one has saved an entire world.” (Sanhedrin 4)

As I reflect on these two events, I not only think about the importance of making a difference for a single family or saving a single dunam of land.  I also think about the breastplate to be worn by the High Priest, set with 12 stones. In this week’s Torah portion, Moses is commanded to make the breastplate as part of the vestments to be worn by Aaron in the  Miskhan, the portable Tabernacle housing the tablets with the ten commandments,  where Moses will speak with God, and where Aaron and his sons will serve God,  “The stones shall correspond to the names of the sons of Israel: twelve, corresponding to their names. (Exodus 28:21)

I have always thought how wonderful it is that the High Priest serves God with all the tribes of Israel close to his heart.  Yes, Biblical scholars have made careers out of analyzing the blessings and the rebuke for each of the tribes which Jacob and Moses each utter before their deaths, and how they reflect the power struggles between the tribes.  However, in those most sacred moments when the High Priest would go into the inner sanctum of the desert Mishkan or the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem, each tribe had a place, and each was equally important.

In our world, we not only the twelve tribes must be close to our hearts.

The Bedouin of the unrecognized villages and those dependent on public housing are two of our forgotten tribes.  Sometimes these Israeli citizens are demonized and blamed for societies ills, but often they are simply ignored.  Who knows or cares that 30-45,000 Bedouin could be evicted from their homes if the Praver recommendations are adapted by the KnessetHow many people know or care that at least 40,000 people are on waiting lists for public housing and thousands in need are not even deemed eligible to be on the lists, while others dwell in homes in life threatening states of disrepair and hundreds are evicted every year?

In our Holy of Holies, every person counts, from Jerusalem to El-Arakib; from Tel Aviv to the South Hebron Hills.  From Hadera to Silwan; From the Azrieli towers to the fields of Jalud.

When I quote from the Book of Esther, I also reflect on the fact that exactly a year ago my daughter became a Bat Mitzvah on Parashat Zachor and Purim, bringing up for me all the difficulties of celebrating the mass killing of even our enemies, and the challenge presented by the idea that the Jewish people must wipe out the seed of Amalek in every generation.  I have always connected to the idea that we must battle, “Amelekiut,” the characteristics of attacking the weakest and most helpless members of our society and the use of eifah v’eifah (double standards). The Torah tells us that Amalek attacked the weak stragglers (Deut. 25:18). Because the verses from which the sages derive the prohibition against acting eifah v’eifah appears immediately before the mention of Amalek, Rashi teaches that  when we act eifah v’eifah, Amalek attacks. I see “Amalekiut” in how we treated the El-Arakib’s and the Ovadiahs in our society.  However, we know that the massacre by Barukh Goldstein on Purim is but one example of how our texts and our history can lead us to justify lashing out at real or perceived enemies, “Sweeping away the innocent with along with the guilty,” (Genesis 18:23), not to mention the fact that perhaps even the guilty could do teshuvah. We pray in the “Aleinu” prayer every day, we ask God to, “Turn to You all the evildoers of the earth.”

Stay tuned                                                                               

In the days leading up to Purim we will be asking both on our website and facebook how we honor our textual tradition and acknowledge our history of oppression without feeding an “Us against the world” mentality and the exploitation of our legitimate desire for security that justify the Baruch Goldsteins, Jewish exceptionalism and human rights violations.

On this Shabbat Tetzaveh and Zakhor, may we focus on purging the persecution of the weak and discriminatory double standards from our midst, thus rededicating ourselves to the building of a national Tabernacle of justice, and remembering to bring every human being into our “Mikdash Me’at”  the Holy of Holies in our hearts.

Shabbat Shalom,


General, Justice in Israel

The Relativity of Poverty

No Comments 22 February 2012

The State of Israel is a rich State with much capability, but it does not succeed in helping its poor people. | s6001044.jpg By aenertia cc: flickr

The poor people expect only the basic things from the state, Jabotinsky’s  five “M”s, but his “ideological successors” in the Israeli government are not committed to provide even this. A special article for the Day of Fighting against Poverty, that was commemorated in the Knesset.

Poverty is and was always relative. When I have less then most of my neighbors and/or family, I am poor, when I have more, I am rich. The poverty in a society is measured by its wealth and its capability to give to others.

The Mishna that was edited in the 3rd century, describes a hierarchy of poor people:

“One must not reduce the due of the poor that wander from place to place, Below a Kikor of two Pound coins when 4 Seah of wheat cost a Sela. If he stays, give him the support to stay. If he stays for Shabbat, give him 3 meals. For one that has only 2 meals, he must not take from the soup kitchen.  If he has 14 meals, he doesn’t take from the money box, And the money box is brought around in pairs and divided into three parts.  If he has 100 Dinar, he does not take the gleanings, the forgotten sheaves, the corner, or the poor tithe. If he has 200 Dinar that is deficient by a Dinar, even if he is given 1000 at once, Indeed, this is taking” Pea tractate 8:7-8.

Today we also have different ranks of poor people, and the State of Israel is grading them. If you have a car you are not entitled to a guaranteed minimal income (unless you work part time and your car is an old one, over 7 years old). People who work and earn low wages are entitled to request help for rent (between 500 – 1500 NIS). Also in the Building ministry office’s site (which is in charge of this issue),  It is hard to understand who is entitled to receive help.

As long as a man works and receives guaranteed minimum income (for a family it must meet a minimum wage for the whole family) he is also entitled to more help in the form of a discount in public transportation.  But if he starts to earn more and stops getting the allowance he loses also all the benefits.

All the suffering in the world

It has always been difficult to be poor. In Exodus Rabbah it is written that to be poor is the most difficult thing because if you are poor it is as if you suffer all the suffering in the world, and you have been cursed all the curses in Mishne Torah. Our Sages said that if on one side were gathered all the sufferings in the world and on the other side was poverty, poverty would have prevailed. When Job asked God why did he make him suffer so much, God asked him, what do you want more, to suffer or to be poor? Job chose to suffer and not to be poor.

Today, the Knesset will commemorate the Day to Fight Against Poverty, and on this day we (poor people and organizations that fight against poverty) are trying to promote our struggle.  The fact that poverty is man’s own doing means men can defeat it. We try to give people who live in poverty a place where they can be heard and say what they think needs to be done in order to better their lives.

In the rights center of Rabbis for Human Rights in Hadera there is a group of women who are struggling to change their lives.  Last week we talked about the fight against poverty and asked them to tell us things that would help them, and what they wanted was very modest:

  1. To raise the allowances according to the raising of the prices.
  2. Discounts on electricity and waters to people who receive allowances.
  3. To be able to provide for themselves. Not to work for a subcontractor, social conditions for everyone.
  4. Public housing.
  5. Teach parents how to raise their children with financial wisdom, so they will not have the same problems in the future.
  6. Reduce the prices of food.
  7. Free medicine.
  8. Upon starting work, not to immediately lose all allowance.


This conversation brought “Y” to describe her life: “I would like to sleep in a normal home with normal beds, in my home there is not a normal life. Every week I go to Amidar and ask them to come and fix my windows because the rain is coming in and I have to clean it up all the time. Many things are missing: I do not have an oven, I do not have enough with which to live, children need clothes, shoes and many other things. All of my money goes to pay bills and nothing is left for living.”

A vacation from poverty

Their aspirations are not to go on vacation, to buy clothes or a new vehicle. They want to have the minimum for a proper living, or in Jabotinsky’s words: the state has to provide housing, health, teachers, clothes and food. Everyone is entitled to live a life without the fear that he will not have food for tomorrow, that the rain will wet him or that he will need the help of kind people in order to survive.

“A” (who is not working since she hurt her back) said: “If Bibi was here I would ask him to swap places with me for one day and live here on my salary. What does it mean to be rich? To have eyes, teeth, hand and legs. To be healthy is the most important thing”.

The State of Israel is a rich State with much capability, but it does not succeed in helping its poor people. There is no public housing, no free health, no free and proper education, no water, no electricity, no food and clothing for everyone. There are people who have a lot and people who have nothing: no food, no housing, and they cannot afford medical treatments or other basic needs.

Now is the time that we, as a society, as a state, will see to it  that no one will sleep on the streets, that there will not be hungry people and that people can live in dignity even if they are poor.

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