The following article was written by Rabbi Arik Ascherman, president and senior rabbi of RHR. It originally appeared in the Jewish Chronicle Online.
What I have Witnessed in Susiya
By Rabbi Arik Ascherman
Tag archive for "South Hebron Hills"
Yesterday, Palestinian residents from the Palestinian village Susya reported that two right wing extremists chased a Palestinian boy in an agricultural area belonging to the village, located near the settlement Susiya. Palestinian residents of Susya have suffered from many instances of violent harassment in this agricultural area and following legal action by Rabbis for Human Rights, an order was issued prohibiting Israelis from entering the area. (In more “typical” circumstances, a government would deter criminal activity and there would be no need for an order forbidding entry on the basis of nationality.) In any case, the boy was able to run away and reach the village before he was caught and adults from the village ran towards the boy to deter those chasing him. Their fears range from the regular attempts to harm Palestinians including children to the fear that this is a retaliation for the recent kidnapping of three Yeshiva students.
The reasons behind the incident are not clear and thus the fears surrounding it remain. We will continue to monitor the situation and warn that violence without intervention simply perpetuates the cycle of hatred and revenge and endangers life on both sides. We can point, for example, to Iraq, the country with the highest rate of terrorism in the world and see how the extremists on both sides – Shiite and Sunni – have chosen to respond to terrorism with more indiscriminate terrorism and see that it has not led to quiet or to deterrence but to an intolerable cycle of violence.
IMAGE: For demonstrative purposes only.
Rabbis for Human Rights prays for the peaceful return of the three Jewish-Israeli students apparently kidnapped in the West Bank. Our thoughts are with them and their families.
A Supreme Court ruling from 2010 established the “Empty Plot” test to be utilized in when deciding the fate of structures deemed illegal in Palestinian villages.
While the test itself masquerades as a purely objective, legal-technical planning tool, RHR Attorney Netta Amar Shiff explains how it is actually “a doctrine of denial and concealment” hiding a policy seeking to fully erase the Palestinian people, history and culture. Continue Reading
It is our duty to carry on the Jewish traditions of compassion, equality, and justice. Please consider adding all or parts of the below Haggadah supplements to your Passover seder.
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WHO SITS WITH US AT OUR SEDER?
Eloheinu v’Elohei Kadmoneinu (Avoteinu, Avoteinu vEmoteinu), our God and God of our ancestors, we are gathered around this seder table as b’nei khorin, free people commanded to remember our dark nights of oppression. Your Torah warns us never to become oppressors ourselves, reminding us, “For you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Yet, when we are honest with ourselves, we know that we have been Pharaoh to other peoples, and to the disadvantaged among our own people. Our awareness that “In every generation there are those who arise to destroy us” often causes us to harden our hearts, and perceive hatred where it does not exist.
We therefore turn to You, as in days of old. Stand with us, so that our fears not rise up to be our taskmasters. Help us to banish Pharaoh from our hearts, and let others in.
With Pharaoh at bay, we become more painfully aware of the desecration of Your Image found in every human being. As with the plagues of old, our joy is diminished when we hear of those whose lives remain embittered. “Hashata Avdei,” “This year we remain slaves because of their oppression ” We remove additional drops of wine from our cup of celebration and renew our commitment to winning their freedom, thereby completing ours. We make room in our hearts and at our table for: (Choose one or more. One person can read out loud, and all participants can read the final section together)
Arabiyah has seen her home demolished six times.There is a hollow and vacant look on her face, and she has struggled with depression ever since the first demolition in 1998. Pictures drawn by children on our office wall testify to the trauma suffered by thousands of Palestinian children who left their homes in the morning, only to find rubble where their house once stood. The pictures are full of violence, blood and tears. With the numbers of demolitions skyrocketing both in the Occupied Territories and in the “Unrecognized” Bedouin villages of the Negev, Arabiya, the children and all the families of all the homes we have seen demolished over the years will be in our hearts as RHR goes to court on April 28t to return zoning and planning in Area C to Palestinian hands.
As we sit at our seder table in our secure homes, we leave a place for those whose tables lie under the rubble of their bulldozed homes.
Rivka struggles every month with only 700 shekels, after rent, for food, water, electricity, health care, transportation and municipal taxes. She wouldn’t even have that without the help of RHR. And, there was no open door or place at the table for the poor at the meetings of the Alaluf Committee given three months to find solutions to Israeli poverty.But, with our intervention, Rivka was invited to tell her story.
As we gather tonight to tell our people’s story, we know we must include the forgotten and untold chapters of those whose suffering has not ended, whose tears continue to fall, and who have nothing but the bread of poverty all year long. As we tell their story, we commit to ending their degradation.
Salim was born in the “Unrecognized” village of Umm El Khiran, after Israel moved his family from their lands near what is now Kibbutz Shuval in the 1950′s.They were given long term leases and promised that they would be able to stay in their new homes “until there are no more Jews or Arabs living on this land.” But now the government has approved building the Jewish community to be called “Khiran” on the rubble of their homes. They must move to a poverty and crime stricken township.
Tonight we are asked to recall Laban the Aramean, who changed our ancestor Jacob’s wages time and time again. Tonight we invite to our table those Israeli Bedouin who have learned that a promise is not a promise, and an agreement is not an agreement. As up to 40,000 Israeli citizens face expulsion from their homes and villages, they have a place in our homes and our hearts, and our commitment not to rest until justice is done.
Natalie breaks into tears every few minutes as she tries to explain why she and her young daughter were forced to squat in an empty public housing after being kicked out of the apartment her job didn’t allow her to afford. She has been on the waiting list for public housing for eight years. But, with successive governments seeking to eliminate housing, the supply is short and every time she gets close to the top of the list, she falls back again.
Tonight we dipherbs in salt water reminiscent of our ancestors’ tears. As we dip tonight we gaze at Natalie’s empty seat, her tears are our tears. As we sing Adir Hu and dream of the day when God’s house will be built, know that first our national home must have a home for all.
Ismail. A bitter wind courses through the South Hebron Hills. RHR returned Ismail and other families to Bir El ‘Id almost ten years after settler intimidation forced them to abandon their villages. The laughter of children was heard again where there had been only desolation. However, Ismail and his family have continued to pay a price since returning. They eked out a living from their flocks, while suffering arbitrary arrests, harassment from settlers and soldiers, tires slashed, water tankers emptied, midnight visits and much violence. Ismail could return to his cave, but everything he and others built was demolished. They build again. A year ago Ismail was brutally attacked by knife wielding masked settlers. The final straw for his children was when settlers attacked them and sent one to the hospital while working their land next to the Mitzpeh Yair outpost, but they were arrested and are about to stand trial. Ismail and the other families of Bir El ‘Id would gladly accept the bitterness of hard labor, were it not for the ruthlessness of army backed settlers.
Our ancestor’s lives were made bitter. As slaves they worked endlessly, with no reward for their labor. Ismail and all the residents of Bir El ‘Id sit with us tonight if we commit to their struggle to peacefully and safely live on their lands.
African refugees. Even after Israel’s High Court struck down the law allowing African refugees to be imprisoned for the crime of fleeing for their lives, the Knesset approved a new law creating “Open” detention facilities. The detained are the lucky ones. A fence prevents most from crossing our border. Traumatized Israeli soldiers tell how they defy orders when they can, but often helplessly watch those cannot cross being shot and raped by Egyptian soldiers.
As we open our doors to invite all who are hungry to come and eat, we remember the many doors closed to us over long years of persecution. As we await Elijah, the empty seat next to us waits for those who our fences prevent from arriving.
Even ma’asu habonim – “The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.”
As we joyfully recite these words as a part of our seder, we pledge to build a homeland with a place for all those who are today rejected, ignored or oppressed. Tonight, they all have a place at our table.
Recalling the midwives of old, we know that the seeds of redemption are planted when we oppose Pharaoh’s command.
This year we also celebrate accomplishments. Lands have been returned to Palestinian owners, olives have been picked, trees planted and fields successfully sowed and reaped. Inside Israel the Bedouin displacement program has been frozen, while the public attention we have focussed on the Alaluf Committee on fighting poverty will apparently lead to a significant change in the recommendations for the better.
MAY THESE GLIMPSES OF WHAT COULD BE STRENGTHEN OUR RESOLVE TO STRIVE FOR WHAT MUST BE:
NEXT YEAR IN A JERUSALEM REDEEMED THROUGH JUSTICE
The Four Children at the Seder Table: Which Child Am I?
As we celebrate this Holiday of Freedom, the ending of slavery, we ask, “Who am I, when I hear of human rights abuses? Who will I choose to be when I know that others are suffering?”
Will I be one who does not ask? Will I close the newspaper or turn off the television, the computer or the mobile device so that I do not hear or see? Will I turn my head and heart away?
Will I ask only simple questions? “What is this?” Will I ask what, but never why?
Will I let the evil impulse, my yetzer hara ask: “What has this to do with me?” Will I let the problem belong only to the victims and the do-gooders? Will I distance myself from those in need?
Or will I strive to act in wisdom, to ask: “What are the underlying causes of the problem and what needs to be done to stop the abuse and free the oppressed? What are the laws and what does Gd expect of me?”
May Gd open the eyes of those who do not see, the mouths of those who do not ask, and the hearts of those who do not care, and grant us the wisdom to open our hands to our fellow humans when they are in need – the hand of generosity, the hand of support, the hand of peace and friendship.
Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch, Commentary to the Torah
You shall not wrong a ger (Non-Jew living among you and living by your rules) or oppress him/her, for you were gerim in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22:20)
The great, meta-principle is oft-repeated in the Torah that it is not race, not descent, not birth nor country of origin, nor property, nor anything external or due to chance, but simply and purely the inner spiritual and moral worth of a human being, that gives him/her all the rights of a human being and of a citizen. This basic principle is further protected against infringement by the additional explanation, “For you were gerim in the land of Egypt.” Your entire misfortune in Egypt was that you were “foreigners” and “aliens.” As such, according to the views of other nations, you had no right to be there, had no claim to property, to homeland, or to a dignified existence. It was permissible to do to you whatever they wished. As gerim, your rights were denied in Egypt. This was the source of the slavery and wretchedness imposed upon you. Therefore beware, so runs the warning, from making human rights in your own state conditional on anything other than on the basic humanity which every human being as such bears within him/her by virtue of being human. Any suppression of these human and civil rights opens the gate to the indiscriminate use of power and abuse of human beings, to the whole horror of Egyptian mishandling of human beings that was the root of abomination of Egypt.
Do not “wrong”, Do not “oppress”…means to be illegally deprived of material or spiritual possessions…[thus, the full implication is] – Neither by words nor by deeds shall you hurt a ger…[and] here the admonition against differentiating against gerim is directed primarily to the state as such. It is not to practice any discrimination and injustice against gerim because they are gerim.. It is not to impose heavier taxes or grant lesser rights than it does to the native-born; and in no ways is it to restrict them in the free exercise of any means of gaining their livelihood…The main point is not to limit where s/he can live, or taking away his/her hold on his/her possessions.
The Bedouin village of Umm el-Kheir is just a stone’s throw away from the Carmel settlement in the South Hebron Hills. Its residents live in huts and tents in abject poverty, without water hook-ups or electricity, while the residents of Carmel enjoy an existence resembling life in the suburbs of any Western country.
For a number of years, the shepherds of Umm el-Kheir have struggled against the settlers of Carmel who claim that part of Umm el-Kheir sits on the Jewish settlement. Recently, tensions came to the surface again as settlers planted trees on a ridge– a tactic used in the past to “claim” their land. The trees were uprooted and as a result, the village shepherds were collectively punished by blocked access to their pastures. Additionally, Carmel settlers physically attempted to prevent the flocks from passing. Continue Reading
In its most recent ruling on extremist settler incursions into Palestinian land adjacent to Susya, the High Court of Justice created a severe impediment to justice. Essentially, the ruling makes it so that there’s no longer any reason for Palestinians to petition it in cases wherein settlers invaded land over five years ago, as well as in cases where the legal counsel to the Civil Administration in the Occupied Territories does not want to intervene. The High Court simply will not intervene in decisions the military system has already made. This isn’t even a case of “statute of limitations” (which does not apply in these cases because there is no purchase document, proper possession, etc.), but rather the High Court’s refusal to recognize the regime’s responsibility towards problems it creates and enables. Continue Reading
Saturday, February 8th activists from the group Ta’ayush were attacked by 10-15 masked extremists nearby the illegal outpost of Eshtamoa in the South Hebron Hills. The activists assist Palestinian farmers and shepherds each week with their work in various ways. One activists was violently pushed, kicked, punched and beaten with a club. The assault was captured on film, and soldiers were within proximity to the events. Continue Reading
PRESS RELEASE | February 4th 2014
The High Court of Justice rejects two petitions regarding the Palestinian village of Susya, enabling the IDF to evade responsibility for land theft
Rabbis for Human Rights:
“The High Court of Justice has enabled the State to evade its responsibility in preventing seizures of land belonging to Palestinian farmers. This is not a case of civil strife between two equal neighbours, but rather systemic military discrimination that has enabled and even supported coerced removal of Palestinian farmers from their lands.” Continue Reading
On Friday, January 3rd 2014, Rabbi Ascherman led a group of rabbinical, cantorial and education students on study-tour to the South Hebron Hills, the major geographical focus of RHR’s legal department. Students learned about the fascinating culture of the cave-dwelling Palestinians there, and visited Bir El ‘Id, a village abandoned for ten years due to settler intimidation until RHR’s legal team returned them to their homes in 2009, Palestinian Susya, where RHR’s legal department continues to fight on behalf of its residents to keep their homes and lands, as well as Ad Dirat. The group was joined by one of RHR’s attorney’s, Miya Keren. Continue Reading
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