African refugees protest for human rights, Tel Aviv, Israel, 10.6.2012
The Weekly Report of Rabbis for Human Rights
You are a religious man. You know that our Torah commentators learned from the verse, “I will go down to see whether they have acted altogether according to the outcry that has reached me,” that, just as God does not destroy Sodom and Gemorrah before personally going down to check the claims that reached God in the heavens, so an earthly judge should personally check facts before deciding the fate of others. You have shown the ability to do this. After you personally spoke to those in the Wisconsin Program and learned the realities that others had hidden from you, you came back to your office in Jerusalem and changed the program (Not enough, but changes for the good.). True, a Israeli delegation checked out what is happening in S. Sudan and said that it is safe to return. But, we know from this week’s Torah portion that “delegations” don’t always give an accurate report. You are about to decide the fate of those you are forcibly sending back. Yes, you are forcing them. This is true, even if some of them “chose” to sign a paper saying they were going back willingly, rather than face incarceration. I am currently looking into the possibility of an Israeli journalists’ delegation to S. Sudan, that will go down to see for themselves. If this works out, I hope to personally accompany those who are being forcibly expelled. Maybe it is true that there is no danger, and that your actions are justified. But, we hear something very different from S. Sudanese refugees and from the S. Sudanese government. They ask that at least people be given the chance to organize, rather than be rounded up like animals. It was only last Thursday that the Court took away their collective right to stay here and said they must apply for refugee status individually. We agree that Israel is too small to hold many refugees and that we cannot put the entire burden on the residents of S. Tel Aviv. However, I would like to believe that you would not intentionally send people back to their death, and would change your plans if you knew there was real and present danger. So, please come down to S. Sudan to see whose crying out the truth.
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The affair of sending the people to spy out the Land of Canaan is an unsolved issue in the life of Moses. Years later, in Deuteronomy, when he summarizes his life work, he looks at this strange affair of sending the people to spy out the Land of Canaan and he wonders why he did it. Read the Dvar Torah of Rabbi Saar Shaked.
Last week we represented the residents of the Palestinian village of Susya and defended them from the “Regavim” appeal. We realized that the court does not recognize the discriminating planning regime that does not allow Palestinians, including the residents of Susya, who were evicted from their historical village to their agricultural lands, to build their homes. Now The Palestinian village of susya received demolition orders for all the houses and structures of the village, and in fact will be erased from the map despite the fact that the appeal against the village is still pending in the Supreme Court.
The award of the exceptional project was granted to our public housing center in Beit Shean and Rabbi Kobbi Weiss received the testimonial in the name of the organization. Some thirty RHR rabbis participated in a study day organized by the education department on Thursday. Rabbi Uri Regev taught about the correlation between religiosity and opposition to equality for Israeli Arabs ; Rabbi Dr.Dalia Marx taught about how we relate to non-Jews in our liturgy, and Rabbi Dr. Ariel Picard taught about the how the halakhic attitude towards property and other rights of non-Jews in the Land of Israel has evolved through the ages.
Most of the 12 pre army academies RHR is teaching in have finished for the year, and our two human rights Yeshivas at Hebrew University and the Open University are finishing in the coming weeks.
A week ago Sunday Rabbi Ascherman had two court hearings: In the first he was arrested two years ago, along with 14 other activists for sitting in front of police barricades. This was during the period when the police still were preventing demonstrators against Jewish takeovers in the neighborhood from entering the neighborhood. This is the third time that the trial has practically started over from the beginning, after other judges did not want the case. The judge rejected pre trial motions to close the case, and the case will be heard on 21.11.12. The second case is connected to an incident in2009 in which Rabbi Ascherman intervened after settlers blocked a Palestinian on the access road to Bir El-’Id, the village that was abandoned for some 10 years because of settler violence, until our legal department returned them home on the condition that they could use the road. Here again, the judge refused to close the case, and it will be heard on 2.12.12.
Rabbi Gil Nativ published his speeh from the ‘Tag Meir’ Solidarity Rally in Neve Shalom community. Also Rabbi Nava Hefetz reports: “This morning I travelled to Neve Shalom –Wahat Salam, to support the people living there, among them some of my friends. The tag price shocked this pastoral and quiet village. For years the residents of this village, Jews and Arabs, live there peacefully and are trying to be an alternative to racism and Arab hatred. It was painful to hear the principal of the school – on the walls of which sentences like: Death to the Arabs was written – telling us that young pupils of first grade asked him if people are coming to kill them. Is this the Jewish state which declared that: “the State ofIsrael…willfoster for the benefit of all its citizens… will ensure equality… will guarantee freedom justice and peace… will be faithful to the declaration of the United Nations? Probably, not any longer! The “wild herbs” – this is how extreme right wing extremists were called – turned to be a huge field that is poisoning the Israeli Society”.
Our preparations for Jahalin summer camps continue. We donated an awning (500 shekels ) for use at the Jabel camp next to Azaria and will soon be purchasing arts and crafts materials. Any earmarked donation for sports equipment or food for the kids (there are 60+) during the camp is very welcome. The camp, led by a local Bedouin teacher and her sisters, will run this year from June 24th until July 12th on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:00 a.m until 12:00 a.m.
We are looking for additional volunteers, preferably youngor youngat heart, Arabic-speaking, with special summer camp skills (arts, music, sports…) to donate their time and energy. Transport will be provided. For more information and registration contact Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann050-2110639 or Yohanatan Shefa 050-2025997.
There will be another 4 or 5 summer camps running at the same time at Khan El Achmar, Abu Hindi, Anata and possibly Abu Nawahr to which we have been invited to contribute if we have enough resources. These camps are being run by our colleagues from Vienta de Tierra or the Combini Sisters with whom we have cooperated over the years. UNRWA, YMCA and “Clowns Without Borders” are also assisting.
We continue to accompany farmers in their struggle for survival economically in area C. Our aid to the farmers of Yanoun this week for instance has made possible a successful wheat harvest there.
We will be looking for volunteers later this summer – end of July and early August to participate in a project in the South Hebron Hills of repair and renewal of water cisterns in the area. Anyone interested in helping please leave contact details at the RHR office by the end of June: telephone 02-6783611 Note: this will entail strenuous early morning physical work.
Our field worker Yonatan Shefa just recently returned from a 10-day expedition in the Croatian wilderness that brought together a group of Palestinian and Israeli religious leaders. The expedition was the first stage in a six-month process that aims to establish a strong group of inter-religious leaders that can act as a collective to launch joint projects for human rights, peace and justice. In the coming weeks, Yonatan will share his observations and reflections on the process thus far.
Upon his return, Yonatan also facilitated a group of rabbis-, priests- and imams-in-training to explore a range of economic, environmental and human rights issues in the Jordan valley. This project aims to train young religious leaders to design and execute joint projects from a religious and inter-religious perspective.
What is going on in the Finance Committee of the Knesset? How does it influence the State’s budget? What can you do? Rabbi Idit Lev writes on a new initiative of a public knowledge workshop. The article of Rabbi Idit Lev was published in the protest site and in Avoda Shchora. Adv. Quamar Mishirqi-Asad was interviewed for The Voice of Peace radio on the issue of our legal defense on the residents of Susya. Rabbi Arik Ascherman’s word published in Hakibush magazine.
From the Press: “A week ago Rabbi Ascherman helped the South Sudanese refugee community locate the S. Sudanese governmental delegation that came to speak with the Israeli government about the impending deportation of S. Sudanese. We wanted the community to be able to speak with the delegation before the delegation spoke with Israeli officials. The S. Sudanese government, similar to the Zionist movement, is incapable of understanding why anybody would not want to return to S. Sudan and help build the new country.”
“They were extremely upset about the jailing and quick deportation of the S. Sudanese, without giving sufficient time to organize themselves. However, they got nowhere with Interior Minister Eli Yishai, and returned to S. Sudan on the plane with the refugees. There was great anger among the community here, and a feeling that their own government was not doing enough to protect them. There were demonstrations in the S. Sudanese capital, Juba. Subsequently, we are trying to get more information about the situation of those who have been arrested. In addition to the ongoing hunger strike, we understand that there are two seriously ill individuals, and are trying to verify reports that they are not getting adequate treatment. The Hotline for Migrant Workers now has some access to the prison, and has passed some information on to Physicians for Human Rights. We are also trying to get more information on detainees who wish to apply for asylum, or who have other special issues not being adequately addressed. Another plane was supposed to have left on Monday, but apparently has not. We have also been in touch with Human Rights organizations in South Sudan. The general picture that we are getting is that, as a result of independence, the Israeli court was justified in removing group protection. However, given the ongoing instability, hunger, etc., there remain legitimate reasons for individual to apply for asylum status. “
Announcements from other organizations (we are not responsible for the content):
- The demonstration of all the neighborhoods in the country - On Thursday, June 14th 2012 in Jerusalem, all the neighborhoods of South Tel Aviv, Gedera, Naharia, Kiryat Gat, Eilat… The neighborhood in Israel are united because we are not “suckers”. We will spend the night in tents and demonstrations all over the country – Hatikva, Katamons, Shpira in Gedera… All over the country, because all the people are in neighborhoods. We will also march. The marches will take place on Thursday, June 14th starting 08:00pm.