PRESS RELEASE | JULY 26 2016
Tag archive for "area C"
PRESS RELEASE | JULY 26 2016
On Sunday July 24th, the Jahalin Bedouin children attending summer camps in various locations outside Maale Adumim were treated to a special performance by medical clowns from nearby Bethlehem. The children, of course, loved the show!
— Rabbi 4 Human Rights (@rhreng) July 24, 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.
On 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 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.
These photos are from four locations that are having summer camp for the children of the Jahalin Bedouin tribe this week and next week.
They are: Abu Nawahr A, Abu Nawahr B, (next to Maale Adumim), El Muntar (close to Keidar in the Judean Desert) and Jabal al Jahalin. The first three are happening in partnerhship with the dedicated and kind nuns of the Comboni order, while the camp at Jabal Al Jahalin (next to Azaria) is under the management Ibtisim, a local Bedouin women that works with us. This year we have only 3 volunteers so far and we are in need of more. Two from the University of Notre Dame in the USA and another young Palestinian from East Jerusalem.
Soon we will begin the soccer activity in Anata and Khan al Ackmar, with the help of Suliman, a Bedouin man from Anata.
So far, we had 180 children come for camp at all 4 locations! More photos here
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
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 Hukkat while abroad Korach which was read last week in Israel, is read. You can find last week’s Dvar Torah on Korach here.
Rabbinic sources call water a blessing, the United Nations recognises it as a human right, and Isaac seeks to distribute it equally among peoples. In his commentary to Parashat Hukkat, Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann shows us what Israel today must learn about the importance of fairly managing our most precious natural resource.
By Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann
Parashat Hukkat which opens with the strange commandment of the red heifer that is used to purify those contaminated by contact with death, goes on to tell the story of “Mei Meriva” (The waters of contention) where Moses strikes a rock twice angrily and provides the thirsty people with water. He is punished for his angry disobedience and is fated not to enter the land (Numbers, 20 1-6). But that is not the end of his troubles with the rebellious people. Their angry criticism of him and Aharon at having brought them “to die in the desert” and their wish “to return to Egypt” is repeated a number of times in the narrative. It is one of the main narrative themes of this book of the Torah. The long trek through the desert is wearing them down and they are losing patience.
The word ”water” figures prominently in the weekly Torah reading appearing some eleven times in the opening description of purification associated with the red heifer, and then nine more times in the subsequent narrative as the people continue to complain time after time of the lack of drinking water in the desert. Twenty times mentioned in one parasha seems to be telling us something.
This has been a hot summer here in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. There have been water shortages and water supply to villages in the “West Bank” or “Judea and Samaria” (according to your narrative) has been rationed yet again as it has been in past years. The water deprivation of the Palestinian population is a consequence of 49 years of structural discrimination. It is, one might say, a man-made desert. This alone would explain Palestinian non acceptance of, and rebellion against, Israeli rule, just as wandering in a waterless desert following Moshe and Aharon for forty years would explain the people’s rebelliousness and bitterness in this week’s Torah narrative. Moshe’s lack of sympathy for the people’s thirst led to his punishment just as our lack of sympathy for the basic human needs of Palestinians leads us to isolation in the world community, and increased rage from those millions whose lives we effect.
My personal experience in the field over the years has been one of witnessing discrimination and inequitable distribution of water resources, highlighted by repeated acts of destruction of water infrastructure in Area C, the prevention of local water development for Palestinian villages, and their increasing dependence on water purchased from Israeli sources.
In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized that water and sanitation should be a human right. Water as a human right is as much about the quality, making sure that the water is clean and you do not get sick from drinking it, as it is about access.
In the earlier Torah story of “The Bitter Waters” (“Hamayim Hamerorim“) there was water but it was not drinkable. Moses solved that problem miraculously. In Gaza today there is an extreme water crisis and in many villages in Israel and the Palestinian territories which not connected to the Israeli water system there is water which is not drinkable, as it has been polluted due to inadequate sewage (sometimes from Israeli industry, particularly from Jewish settlements, but also from Palestinian industry).
Unfortunately, Israel has actively prevented the improvement of this situation in Area C because of political and ideological concerns, often under the claim to be engaged in issues of security. We have the technological know-how and material resources to solve these problems at least in those areas under our direct and indirect control, if not in those where Hamas rules. We have a common interest to deal with this, if we can find a way to cooperate with the Palestinians and transcend exclusivist nationalist narratives for the sake of life. “You shall choose Life” the Torah tells us.
Rabbinic sources tell us repeatedly of the great value of water – rain is a blessing, drought a punishment. It is expressed ritually by religious Jews all over the world in their daily repetition of the Sh’ma prayer, instituted by the sages in ancient times, reminding them of their dependence on Divine Benevolence.
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).
We can learn from the behavior of our ancestor Isaac in Genesis who acted for peace in avoiding conflict over water. He was able to share water resources in the land with the Philistines.
Making running drinkable water available in an equitable way to all who live here between the river and the sea might look like the equivalent of the miracle described in this week’s Mei Merivah story but doing so is the right, moral thing to do, and I believe, in our long-term interest. We are, after all, a land of miracles!
Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann is a the director of organisational development at Rabbis for Human Rights.
We have recently been asked why we are not working on the irregular supply of water to the settlements amidst this heat wave. Our response:
The provision of a regular water supply to a community regardless of the residents’ ethnic or religious identity is a very serious matter. So long as the settlements are facts on the ground, we must protect the rights of their residents. Our operating principle as an organization are such:
Just as an organization which distributes food focuses on those who do not have food, it should come as no surprise that a human non-governmental rights organisation focuses on those who have no representation in the government. In Israel, this means Palestinians and people living in poverty, both Jewish and Arab. The settlers, on the other hand, are overrepresented in the government relative to their ratio in the general population. We are therefore certain that this representation will make every effort possible in order to find an appropriate solution to this serious issue. However, if the government is still unable to come to an acceptable solution, you are welcome to contact us and we will see what we can do. Even so, if senior ministers such as Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel, who represent the settlers, have been unsuccessful, it is doubtful that a small NGO will have the power to change things. We very much hope this unfortunate situation will soon be resolved for the entire population.
As for our efforts, we are working with Palestinian villages in Area C that are under full Israeli responsibility and control regarding civilian matters, and of which many are not connected to water infastructure year round. Israel, who is responsible for civilian affairs in Area C, not only refuses to connect these villages to the water infastructure, but also prevents Palestinian initiatives to develop water infastructures and solutions. Even wells for collecting rain water are regularly destroyed. Additionally, another 220 Palestinians enclaves not in Area C, initially designed as a temporary phase, are dependent on Israel and also subsist with almost no water sources.
The principle that one must provide special assistance to those that do not have power in the governing institutions that impact their lives is also rooted in Judaism. For example Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, one of the fathers of modern Orthodoxy, warns of a situation wherein the strong take it upon themselves to decide for the weak and the voiceless.
Photos by Nasser Nawaj’ah of B’Tselem and Rabbi Arik Ascherman of Rabbis for Human Rights
On Sunday June 5th, extremist settlers interfered with the planting/plowing work of Palestinians in an area between the village of Jalud and the outpost of Esh Kodesh known for its history of violent confrontations. Police forces responded and delayed a number of the settlers from the group, but did not initially prevent the entrance of the perpetrators of violence into the agricultural area.
This winter, RHR assisted Palestinian farmers in over a dozen villages exercise their court-mandated right to safely and completely plough and plant on their agricultural lands located near settlements or outposts. RHR’s field team assists these farmers by providing a protective presence in situations where there is a threat of settler violence, and by assisting them in coordinating with the Israeli army for both access and protection in certain areas. Sometimes coordination is required with the army, and sometimes Palestinians request it out of fear for their safety. Continue Reading
By Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann
The meeting of human rights activists and IDF soldiers in the field in the West Bank is often complex and tense. Lately these meetings have been used as material for campaigns by extremist right wing organizations that are trying to discredit all the activity of those supporting human rights in the occupied territories. These campaigns are infected with cynicism and ignorance, but even without regard to them, the meetings of activists and soldiers in the field indeed raises serious issues regarding correct behaviour and speech, and the appropriate address for protest against the injustices of the continuing military rule there.
As a veteran human rights activist, a religious Jew and a Zionist, I believe that even without reference to the issue of our public image, it is necessary to sharpen our own moral approach regarding what is appropriate and what is not in interchanges of this kind. It is important to be aware of the clear, though thin, line that distinguishes legitimate criticism (mirroring back abusive acts or moral reproof) to soldiers, from throwing insults and other flagrantly unacceptable behaviours. For us, too, as activists this is important. In particular, we must be careful to prevent such behavior from serving as a distraction from discussion about the occupation itself.
When one thinks about our public agenda, as a society it is clear that the most serious moral issues raised are those due to the occupation– the ongoing military rule over two million human beings with limited civil rights, and institutionalized and systematic abuse of their basic human rights. The current campaigns by the extreme right are attempting to distract from the public debate about the occupation, exploiting widespread public confusion between legitimate moral reproof and denunciation based on blind hatred. They are trying to paint a picture of human rights activists as enemies of the soldiers, while playing on the public’s heart strings, exploiting the warm feelings that most Israelis have for the soldiers.
In this context many Israelis don’t perceive that, despite our opposition to the occupation, we see in the soldiers of the IDF our brothers and sisters — our own, flesh of our flesh — acting to defend our lives and safety. I see in them the concretization of our individual and communal rights to self-defense and the right to life. It is impossible to reduce the meaning of these soldiers to only being representatives of the repressive military regime in the territories, and it is totally wrong for us as human rights activists to turn them into an enemy. Beyond that, I personally served in the IDF, as did my children, as did many of the members of the NGO for which I work – Rabbis For Human Rights.
Nevertheless, it is clear that the situation we are involved in is distressing, and sometimes infuriating. As far as possible, we at Rabbis For Human Rights do our best to engage in constructive communication with the army, while taking a clear stance on the right of Palestinian farmers to access their lands – access that is often prevented by settlers and by soldiers in the field. It does happen sometimes that a particular situation in the field makes it impossible to avoid carrying out acts of nonviolent civil disobedience to soldiers’ instructions (sometimes themselves abrogating standing army orders) if we are to insist on the honouring of Palestinian rights. I have personally, as have my colleagues in RHR, spoken to soldiers in the field and called out to them to notice what kind of policy they are enforcing. The objective of such statements is not to accuse the individual soldiers but rather to increase awareness of the unjust reality – in the hope that after their release from army service they too will raise their voices on issues of conscience.
In tense situations there are sometimes activists for human rights who use harsh and insulting words at soldiers. I am aware of this as a peripheral phenomenon. This is not our approach. What we can do is to present an alternative model through the example of our behaviour in such situations. When we go out as an organization to the olive harvest, or to other activities, we make it clear to everyone involved that we have gone out to help Palestinian farmers, not in order to get into confrontations with the army. When new volunteers join us, we warn them against using insulting language against soldiers in the field – amongst other things because of the damage it might cause to Palestinians who are left to deal with the tension created after we return home.
For all these reasons, we should relate to all those we meet in the field respectfully, even if they have been sent to defend a policy that we cannot accept (we are, in fact, not always comfortable with the political opinions of some the Palestinians whose rights we attempt to defend).
In the Book of Leviticus, Chapter 19, verse 17, it says:
“Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart; thou shalt surely rebuke thy neighbour, and not bear sin because of him.”
This means that it is a commandment to raise one’s voice in rebuke and not to nurture a hatred against those who do wrong.
One can understand the anger of those activists and soldiers who sometimes find themselves in situations of confrontation in the territories. The occupation arouses strong emotions. And at whom does one get angry if not at family members? But we must see beyond the anger: the soldier in the field does not decide government policy; when carrying out his/her orders he/she sees in the volunteer activists a disturbing, interfering presence, and often doesn’t understand their importance in a functioning democracy.
Even when being critical we must always remember that human dignity – the dignity of all human beings – must guide what we do and say. In other times and other places religious leaders taught us that nonviolent struggle against injustice can be powerful and effective. We see in these teachings a source of inspiration. Such a struggle can only succeed when all our actions and statements shine with the light of this basic principle of human dignity. Despite the difference between our reality and theirs, nevertheless it is still possible to apply this message here. There is in doing so a concrete demonstration of an important principle that we learn from the Torah – every human being was created in G-d’s image – including our soldiers.
Those who exploit the complexity of such situations in order to paint an image of human rights activists as enemies of the soldiers are making cynical use of patriotic emotions. They do not want to engage in a specific discussion about what is appropriate or not in civil opposition to the occupation, but rather they want to silence all opposition to the occupation. But these extremist elements will find it much more difficult to succeed in this delegitimizing project if we – human rights activists – will clarify for ourselves honestly and sensitively the nature of a determined civil struggle that uses the power of non-violence in its profoundest sense, and realizes its noble theory in the real world of the military occupation regime.
Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann is the Director of Organisational Development at Rabbis for Human Rights
This post appeared originally in Hebrew on the Israeli alternative news outlet Local Call. It has been translated to English by the author.
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