Tag archive for "Public Housing"

General, Justice in Israel

July 22nd: Public Housing Day at the Knesset

No Comments 17 July 2014




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General, Justice in Israel

Notes from the “Outstanding Project Award” Ceremony at Yezreel Valley College

No Comments 09 June 2014

The Human Services Department’s end-of-year practicum ceremony for the academic year 5774 took place Thursday, May 29 2014 (29 Nisan.) At the end of the ceremony, the outstanding projects were presented. The last, and most highly honored, project to be presented was Rabbis for Human Rights’ project, titled Empowering Beit She’an Public Housing Residents, which was facilitated by Rabbi Kobi Weiss under the management of Rabbi Arik Ascherman.


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General, Justice in Israel

“We will do and we will listen”: A Critical Look at Tikkun Leil Shavuot

No Comments 02 June 2014

RHR’s Rabbi Kobi Weiss reflects on the tradition of tikkun leil Shavuot, and shows us that the call to action at the heart of the seems to have fallen by the wayside in recent years. Continue Reading

Education, General, Justice in Israel

RHR’s work in public housing in Beit She’an once again wins “Outstanding Project Award”

No Comments 03 May 2014

We are pleased and proud to announce that once again this year the practicum work of our project in public housing at Beit She’an has been recognized as outstanding by the academic staff of the Yezreel Valley College!  Continue Reading

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)

Education, General

“I come from an inclusive world”: Rabbi Amsellem visits Beit Midrash for Human Rights

No Comments 02 April 2014

Rabbi Chaim Amsellem met last week (March 26) with our students from the Beit Midrash for Human Rights in cooperation with Hillel at Hebrew University.  Rabbi Amsellem, a Sephardic Haredi rabbi, is a founder of the Shas Party but resigned to establish the Am Shalem movement. Rabbi Amsellem, an articulate man with a commanding presence, opened the discussion with an explanation of his motivations for this move: “What motivates me is getting out of my shell. I see the injustices in Israeli society as well as in the society that I am from, Mizrahi society, and I decided that the best way to make change is to act within the political system.” Rabbi Nava Hefetz brings us her fascinating impressions from this meeting with a ground-breaking leader in Israeli society. Continue Reading

General, Justice in Israel

Student Reflection: Learning about Socioeconomic Injustices in Israel

1 Comment 13 March 2014

Last month, Rabbis for Human Rights brought international students studying in Israel on a study-tour focusing on the socioeconomic justice and poverty within Israel. Participant Andrue Kahn reflects on the trip and the lessons learned. 


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General, Justice in Israel

Dasani’s World: Why We Fight the War on Poverty

No Comments 23 January 2014

With the marking of the 50th anniversary of the United States’ “War on Poverty” this month, Rabbi Idit Lev considers the implications of bad policy on society’s most vulnerable members– its children.

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General, Justice in Israel

Elaluf: Failing on poverty

No Comments 14 January 2014

A Chronology of Criticism: On the Eve of the Elaluf Committee for Combating Poverty’s Continued Hearings

RHR’s Rabbi Idit Lev of our Rights Center in Holon has been closely following the Elaluf Committee, appointed by the welfare minister to “combat poverty.” In late November when the committee first began to meet, Rabbi Lev wrote she was feeling doubtful. Now, by the third meeting, the committee is proving that her doubts were indeed justified.

By: Rabbi Idit Lev

From the outset we have been asking questions about the Elaluf Committee, which convened tomorrow for the third time. Our determined struggle to have the voice of Israel’s poor heard, as part of the Forum for the Struggle Against Poverty’s work (link in Hebrew), led to a thorough analysis of the committee in an investigation by Haaretz, one of Israel’s leading dailies. What follows is the chronology of the struggle.

We are closely following the committee as a part of our commitment to fighting poverty, and unfortunately, after an initial examination, believe that its chances of true success are minimal. As Rabbi Idit Lev wrote in her post: Poverty: Who Really Cares About It? The Elaluf Committee’s Chance of Success:

“And now it’s time to make good on their promises – today the committee will convene for its first discussion, which is meant to be open to the public. In no place on the Welfare Ministry’s website has it been announced that the committee is meeting, where it is meeting or when. It seems that the minister’s promises are baseless. People who live in poverty and others who are not members of the committee will find it very difficult to even find its discussions.

In the past ten years I’ve learned that people who live in poverty need to be part of every discussion and attempt to reduce the number of poor in Israel, which is the same argument made by the Fourth World Movement. People who live in poverty do not have their voice represented on this committee, and thus they are excluded from the debate surrounding their fate.”

RHR’s Efforts

As part of the Forum for the Struggle Against Poverty’s activity we presented a study with troubling findings about the debt level among people who live in poverty in a single neighborhood in Be’er Sheva [article available in Hebrew only]. And we marked the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty with an article entitled, “What Will Take Us Out of Poverty?” [Hebrew only]. We have broadcast all the hearings on our twitter feed (RHRIS) and we even published testimonies of women who live in poverty in Israel.

Involving the Poor

Our struggle to have the voice of Israel’s poor heard reached the front page headlines of Haaretz Hebrew edition. Rabbi Idit Levi wrote about the council:

“The Prime Minister’s office pushed the Committee for Combating Poverty to work with McKinsey, which profits from the changes and processes of privatization in the public sector, instead of the Brookdale Institute, a public institution partially owned by the government. This step was made behind the scenes and raises questions about the directions in which they are trying to push the committee’s decisions.” Read Or Kasthi’s full article in Hebrew at the Haaretz website.

Following our struggle in the Forum for the Struggle Against Poverty, an editorial was published in Haaretz calling for the involvement of people living in poverty in the hearings about their future and the plans to assist them. We hope we have sent this message loud and clear to the Welfare Minister.

On Friday yet another article by Or Kashti about the committee  [article in Hebrew]was published in the Haaretz Hebrew edition. Kashti revealed that three professors had withdrawn from the committee, and on Sunday Or Kasthi announced on his blog [article in Hebrew] the withdrawal of another member, deputy-chairman of the Housing Committee Arieh Bar. Bar had harsh criticism for the Israeli government regarding it’s conduct during a time in which the committee has yet to formulate a program:

“It is not easy to convince people that without a roof over your head your chance of being poor is high,” he said. “The housing problem did not exist from the 60s until the 80s. We’ve arrived at this situation because the state dismantled the assets that it once had in the field of implementation… the state needs to make sure that every citizen of Israel has a roof over their head. It is a basic thing, and it needs to be in legislation.”

Yesterday on the Seder Yom (Daily Agenda) program, Keren Neubach interviewed Or Kashti on the question of the Elaluf Committee’s work (in Hebrew from minute 13:15 until 22:00). Keren Neubach also asked him to expand on Arieh Bar’s withdrawal and comments. Kashti noted that Bar sees the committee as toothless, due to the government’s simultaneous attempt to bury the state’s responsibility for public housing [English]. The interview  also raised questions concerning universal benefits, privatization, and the outsourcing of the committee’s public relations to an external public relations firm.

We call on all of our readers and supporters to join the public hearings at the Mikveh Israel Agricultural School in Holon. In joining us, you can help give voice to those who live in poverty so that they might have a say in the decisions influencing their futures.


Picture: cc – Wikipedia. A homeless man in Paris | poverty in France.


General, Justice in Israel

Threat to Public Housing

1 Comment 10 January 2014

NOTE: This post by Nitzan Tenami, originally published in the Hebrew in “HaOkets,” was written for a January 6th Knesset discussion. However, the discussion did not occur, and the question of which committee will take on the amendment remains unknown still. 


IMAGE: Hebrew reads: “Orit Ahanna: Single parent of three, waiting nine years for aid that doesn’t arrive because of a clerical error. Where will I go and how will I pay?”

By: Nitzan Tenami

January 6th the widely-praised amendment to the public housing law will be brought to the Knesset committee. There it will be determined whether it will be discussed by the members of the Labor and Welfare Committee – the natural choice – or by the Finance Committee, which is likely to eliminate it for good.

Monday, January 6th,  the Knesset committee is expected to decide which committee will discuss the amendment to Israel’s public housing law. The goal of the original law was to allow long-time tenants, most of whom are immigrants from Arab countries, to buy their apartments at a reduced price, so they, not only residents of kibbutzim and moshavim, can leave property to their children and help the next generation to break the cycle of poverty. The law also stipulates that the money that would be made from the sale of the apartments, along with additional funds to be invested by the government, will be used to revitalize public housing apartments and to ensure that the housing budget will remain at the level promised by the current law. This is part of the worldview that every country (depending on how much the country defines itself as a welfare state) must ensure that citizens who cannot purchase an apartment at market prices still have shelter and a place to live.

Like many laws oriented towards social justice, this law has been frozen in the Arrangements Law year after year since 2001 and thus not implemented in practice. The apartments, however, were sold, and of the proceeds – some 2.75 billion shekels – only 680 million went to the housing ministry, and not one shekel has been put towards the construction of new public housing. We thus find ourselves today with only 60,000 public housing apartments, which are meant to answer the plight of the 442,000 poor families in Israel. The sale of the public housing, which was planned as a sort of socially just revolution, actually sat well with the position of the Finance Ministry and the government of Israel, who sought to eliminate public housing and replace it with rental assistance. Rental assistance was preferable because it is just another typical government stipend, one that is (like all stipends) subject to constant erosion. It does not create a sense of security about one’s right to shelter, and helps push citizens in need of public housing to the geographic and social periphery. In this spirit, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Housing Minister Uri Ariel recently decided to “unfreeze” the public housing law and allow the sale of the remaining apartments, while changing the clause stipulating that proceeds will be used to buy new apartments and that the housing budget will remain the same.


The Knesset committee is now meant to decide which committee will hold hearings on the law, as the government pushes to pass the law to the Finance Committee while a long line of Knesset members from every party demands that the law be brought to the Labor and Welfare Committee. On the surface, there is no dilemma: the right to housing is a basic pillar in the social security system, which is responsibility of the Labor and Welfare Committee. The Finance Committee, on the other hand, is responsible for the national budget, taxes on foreign currency, and banking. If this is not enough, all one needs to do is read the official opinion of the Union of Local Authorities in Israel, which states that “the transition of the Housing Ministry, and in practice the entire government, to the rental assistance policy is a serious blow to all those who are eligible and to those on the periphery.” Or one could simply look at the letter from the Israel Association of Social Workers to understand the far-reaching social and economic implications of this issue. The letter states: “In light of the fact that the government’s economic plan does not intend to solve the public housing issue in the next several years, we are forced to consider instructing the various agencies responsible for social services in this country that in the absence of any real solutions, that they might no longer be able to productively work with and care for those in need of public housing.”

Yes, but… the Finance Committee, where members of the coalition form a decisive majority, is a sort of executive arm of the current government. This is a committee that transfers funds casually from budget item to budget item, according to the Finance Ministry requests. This is a committee that will not view the public housing law as a tool to correct social injustice and as a way to enable government intervention in the property market, but rather as a way to take more money from public housing tenants and to invest it in projects that bring the government prestige and good PR. If the public housing law goes to the Finance Committee and not to its appropriate place in the Labor and Welfare Committee, the Knesset will be able to record in its minutes that it has taken another step towards the elimination of public housing.

Nitzan Tenami, of Rabbis for Human Rights,  is a member of the Public Housing Forum. This article was originally published in “HaOkets.”


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