The Annual Report 2012-2013 of Rabbis For Human Rights


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The Annual Report 2012-2013 of Rabbis For Human Rights

  1. 1. - ‫משפט‬ ‫שומרי‬ ‫אדם‬ ‫זכויות‬ ‫למען‬ ‫רבנים‬ RABBIS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ‫اجل‬ ‫من‬ ‫حاخامني‬ ‫االنسان‬ ‫حقوق‬ 2012-2013 Annual Activity Report
  2. 2. As Opening Word Rabbi Arik Ascherman In1995,RabbiJeremyMilgromand I succeeded Rabbi Ehud Bandel as co-directors. We developed a grassroots component to our work, succeeding in changing national policy by having one foot on the ground and the other in the corridors of power. In 1995, 95 percent of our work concerned Palestinians. Based on the Torah’s teaching that all human beings are created in God’s Image, RHR’s general assembly resolved that we must always be advocating for the human rights of both Jews and non-Jews. Today, the OT remains our largest single commitment, but it now represents less than 50 percent of our time and resources. While we wish we could put ourselves out of business by ending human rights violations, your increased support allowed us to grow our educational and internal Israeli socioeconomic justice work without backtracking on our commitment to Palestinian human rights. When I began, the entire budget was under $30,000. Today our projected 2013 budget is over $1,300,000. RHR is not affiliated with any political party. We have no position on borders or final status solutions. We state clearly that the Occupation leads to human rights violations, but leave it to others to determine just what ending the Occupation will look like. In terms of socioeconomic justice inside Israel, we struggle against the changes in our society created by the move from a social welfare economy towards a neo- liberal economy. We achieve change through direct field work, the Israeli legal system, lobbying our Knesset and government, public campaigns and working with the international community. As a last resort, we have occasionally engaged in acts of civil disobedience. The following report will give you a good picture of RHR’s current project areas and future plans. I reflected after leaving the directorshipinthecapablehandsof Ayala Levy in 2010 that it is clearer than ever that we are not “Rabbi for Human Rights,” but “Rabbis for Human Rights.” The fact is that, while our organization is clearly a rabbinic organization, our staff is also interfaith. I was almost moved to tears at a recent meeting with an outside evaluator listening to their passion, commitment and dedication.There are certain things that money cannot buy, and are difficult to define, but they make all the difference when the chips are down and the call comes in after hours. Finally, I have been reflecting a great deal lately about what is the essence of Jewish-based human rights work. Clearly our first goal is to create a society which acts according to our belief that all human beings are created in God’s Image. We must develop the “Spiritual vision” that can see through all that divides us, including real conflicts, and sometimes justified anger and fear. The breastplate the High Priest’s wore when he entered the Holy of Holies contained 12 different stones representing the 12 tribes. We must go even further. We achieve holiness when there is a place for all humanity in our hearts because we recognize the essential sameness that unites us in our diversity. We must be aware of how unequal power relationships lead to human rights violations. Ibn Ezra warns us that when we wrong the widow, the orphan or the resident alien, they are all too often voiceless and powerless to protest. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch taught that, even with the best of intentions, it “Borders on criminality” when those with property and power take on the “White man’s burden” of deciding how to be just towards those who do not sit at the table. Rather than saying that they are powerless, some versions of Ibn Ezra say that the widow, orphan and alien have nobody to stand by their side. We must be those who stand by their side. But we must do so as partners, empowering them to find their own voice. I look forward to better explaining what I mean when I have the opportunitytovisityourcommunity, or to welcome you here in Israel. B’Vrakha (In Blessing), Arik As many of our North American friends and supporters already know, it was announced in January 2013 that RHR and RHR-NA were severing their fiscal relationship, and that RHR-NA would now be known as “Tru’ah.” We are therefore taking the opportunity to “reintroduce ourselves” in this report, as well as highlighting our achievements, challenges, plans and goals. The section for each department begins with a summary of what the department does and who is involved. In these opening remarks, I would like to summarize the history and mandate of RHR. I and other staff and board members are making a special effort this year to visit communities around the world. Please contact us if you are interested in inviting us. We also make every effort to provide presentations, text study and/ or tours to visiting groups and individuals. Please contact us about our own Jewish Leadership Human RightsTour October 1st – 8th, timed so that you can be in the courtroom with us for a crucial High Court session on October 3rd. RHR is “Israel’s rabbinic voice of conscience.” In successes deemed impossible, we have in very concrete ways changed Israeli policy, improving the lives of both IsraelisandPalestinians.Anequally important mandate is to expose our fellow Israelis to an understanding ofTorah and our Israeli Declaration of Independence that challenge the nationalistic/particularistic understanding dominant in Israel today both among religious and secular Jews. In our work with Palestinians, we help to break down stereotypes and restore hope in the possibility of a better future. RHR was founded in 1988 by a group of Orthodox, Reform and Conservative rabbis, led by Rabbi David Forman z”l. Today we are approximately 120 Israeli rabbis, also including Reconstructionist, Renewal and Humanistic rabbis. In the challenging days of the First Intifada, Rabbi Forman wrote an open letter to Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, asking why the religious establishment focused almost solely on Shabbat observance and Kashrut. As important as these things are, he asked where were rabbis like Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel addressing the burning moral issues our society faced from a religious Jewish perspective. While not ignoring the very real physical dangers that we faced, he argued that these threats could not be used as an excuse to behave immorally ourselves. In the words of Hillel the Elder, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” He loved to remind us that, according the Midrash, even justice must be pursued through just means. Inthoseearlydays,wesawourselves primarily as a “Shofar,” who by our very presence visiting the scene of a humanrightsabusesentthemessage that this was an issue of the highest Jewish, religious and moral concern. However, in 1992 we won our first precedent-settingHighCourtvictory. Appealing along with Muslim and Christian religious leaders, the Court ignored closed door testimony from the security forces, and revoked a curfew in Ramallah that was preventingChristiansfrompreparing for Christmas. QuicklywewereendorsedinNorth America by the rabbinic bodies of the Reform and Conservative movements, and in 1993 received the Speaker of the Knesset’s Prize for our contributions to Israeli society. Rabbi Forman was invited to deliver a keynote address at the Nobel Institute conference parallel to the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat. Through the years, we have received additional endorsements from the Reconstructionist and Renewal rabbinic bodies in North America, as well as the Liberal Movement in Great Britain, the prestigious NiwanoPeacePrize,andnumerous additional recognitions. While the North American organization we helped found in 2002 has now become independent, we continue to be grateful to British Friends of RHR, Montreal Friends of RHR (Soon to be called Canadian Friends of RHR), Trees of Hope in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the thousands of rabbis and lay people who organize, contribute and advocate for our shared vision of an Israel living up to our highest Jewish values. We are grateful for our broad interfaith support. What unites us as people of faith can transcend our differences. Opening Word-President and Senior Rabbi Rabbi Arik Ascherman 2RHR 2013 3 RHR 2013
  3. 3. Opening Word Rabbi Arik Ascherman RHR Annual Report – Chair’s Letter Rabbi Barry Leff  Occupied Territories As you will see from reading this report, 2012 was a year of notable successes for Rabbis for Human Rights. However, for every success we also have ongoing challenges. For example: After a decade of working and advocating for the right of Palestinian farmers to access their lands, the Israeli security forces are doing a better job of guaranteeing this safe access. But destruction of olive trees by radical settlers continues. We saved the tires and mud school of the Jahalin Bedouin in Khan El Akhmar from demolition. But the Jahalin Bedouin near Mishor Adumim are still threatened with relocation closer to the garbage dump. Our letter writing campaign convinced the Jewish National Fund not to evict the Sumarin family in Silwan. But the JNF has only said they are not evicting the family “for now.” A building tender that would have resulted in the eviction Kurdish immigrants in the former Arab village of Lifta was cancelled, allowing the residents to remain in their homes. But the state and the developers have not given up. Our legal department secured a victory that allowed the residents of Bir El ‘Id to return to additional caves. But the Israeli government continues to threaten the expulsion of hundreds of Palestinians from their homes to create a new “Firing Zone.” Our Rights Center in Hadera provided hundreds of Jewish and Arab residents of the area with advice and legal help regarding their socio-economic rights. But the situation of many remains desperate, as shown by the tragic suicide of Moshe Silman, one of the many people we helped. There are many more examples. Is the “glass half-full” or is it “half-empty?” Both. Our successes and our on-going challenges represent the reality of the human rights situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Organizationally, the end of 2012 brought with it a major change: the ending of our formal affiliation with Rabbis for Human Rights – North America. RHR-NA has a new name, T’ruah – the rabbinic call for human rights. Over the past several years RHR- NA has grown, and its focus has changed. We welcome them as a new member of the Jewishhumanrightsscene. Inthemeanwhile, Rabbis for Human Rights is now conducting its own fundraising and advocacy campaigns in North America. It is the generous support of our members and donors that allows us to continue our mission to help insure that Israel as a nation and a community lives up to the highest ethical ideals of the Jewish tradition. The Jewish people have been called “compassionate children of a compassionate God.” There is no greater expression of compassion than taking action to protect those whose basic human rights are being violated. “It is inspiring to work with so many good, devoted and idealistic people whose vision of peace and justice remains steady despite everything that happens. It is heartening to receive constant feedback emphasizing the importance of our presence as a religious Israeli group for human rights and to hear that we inspire hope in others, save Judaism (and humanism) for them, and break down stereotypes of both Israelis and Palestinians. RHR’s Occupied Territories Field Department, led by RabbiYehiel Grenimann, works to protect the rights of Palestinian farmers in the West Bank to safely access and work their lands throughout the year. An annual highlight is our Fall “Olive Harvest Campaign,” during which we bring hundreds of volunteers to work side by side with Palestinian farmers. After ten years, we now see a marked improvement in the willingness of the Israeli security forces to accept their responsibility (established in a court ruling in 2006) to ensure that farmers can reach olive trees in even the most dangerous locations. However, the scourge of olive tree destruction continues. Every year, RHR plants thousands of trees to replace those destroyed or damaged by settlers, or in areas in danger of takeover. We also advocate on behalf of the rights of the Jahalin Bedouin near Ma’aleh Adumim to remain on their lands, and run language courses and summer camps for children. This year, RHR and our coalition partners orchestrated international pressure forcing the Israeli security forces to commit not to forcibly move the Jahalin without an agreed upon plan for their welfare, but the intent is still to expel them. We also work in cooperation with other organizations to defend the rights of Palestinians to remain in their homes in East Jerusalem. 4RHR 2013 5 RHR 2013
  4. 4. I often like to tell aTalmudic story to our staff and volunteers regarding the nature of our work in the territories and the appropriate attitude for this work. The story is about the famous Rabbi Akiva, an illiterate shepherd who came to Torah study relatively late in life. He fell in love with Rachel, a young woman from a rich and educated family. She agreed to marry him if he studied Torah but he found learning to read and write very hard. Once while sitting by a river in a moment of despair, he noticed water flowing through a rock in the river.He said to himself: “If water can penetrate and overcome such a hard rock, I too can succeed.” He went on to become a great scholar of Torah. My lesson from this story is that just as the water was able to overcome the rock, so we can overcome the evils of the Israeli Occupation through our determination, however hard (and rock-hearted) it might seem to us. Water penetrates where there are cracks and openings in the rock and we too must penetrate in such a way until the system caves in and is replaced by something more humane. That is wiser than confrontational tactics that lead to sparks but no real change or improvement.” Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann, Director, Occupied Territories Field Department This year RHR marked a decade of accompanying Palestinian farmers in their olive groves located near settlements, unauthorized outposts, or near the Separation Barrier. Over the past 10 years, we have ensured therightsofthousandsofPalestinians toplant,harvestandprunetheirolive trees in areas where settlers and/or the Israeli security forces previously denied that right. This year we saw a marked improvement in how the Israeli security forces protected that right. In the past decade, RHR, together with the Harvest Coalition, has also brought thousands of Israelis and internationals to meet with Palestinians in their olive groves, where they learn about harsh realities on the ground as they pick side by side with one another in solidarity and friendship. Our work is not complete. Farmers still have great difficulty obtaining permits to access their land between the separation barrier and the Green Line. Despite the vast improvements resulting from our 2006 Supreme Court ruling, requiring that the army allow Palestinians to safely access their olive trees, RHR still must play a crucial role in coordinating with the army and ensuring that Palestinian villages be given a sufficient number of days to finish the harvest. There are areas near settlements where all the trees have been poisoned, chopped down or uprooted. This year, over 450 destroyed or damaged trees were discovered at the outset of the olive harvest alone. RHR and our coalition partners are searching for ways to get the security forces to keep their court obligation to protect trees and property. While senior army officials told us they could do nothing more to stop the wave of harvest destruction, the US ambassador mentioned the problem in the UN Security Council, and the remainder of the season was relatively quiet. A key focus of our work this year was maintaining and expanding our contacts with Palestinian farmers from 50 villages in the Occupied Territories. RHR’s commitment to these villages does not end with agricultural access. Field Coordinator Zakaria Sadeh regularly visited the villages and responded to diverse problems, including settler violence, IDF inaction, illegal detentions,problemsatcheckpoints, IDF confiscation of equipment or vehicles, and ensuring transport to hospital for several patients. Among the Palestinians whom we help, a real trust in RHR has been created. The peak of our work with these villages is during the olive harvest, which lasts for about one month beginning in mid-October. This past year we coordinated with the IDF to ensure army protection and safe access for farmers in at least seven villages during the harvest.As in past years, we also arranged for several hundred Israeli and international volunteers, including members of RHR, to work in the olive groves in 11 villages. Our presence in the field alongside Palestinian farmers provides protection against possible settler intimidation, enables farmers to pick within the limited number of days that they can safely do so, and has also become an act of solidarity between Israeli Jews and Palestinians. The sharing of lunches and eating together, Israelis and Palestinians, is usually the highlight of the day! By bringing together Israeli Jews and Palestinians under the shade of the olive tree, we believe that we are helping to change the minds and attitudes of Israeli Jews and Palestinians towards one another. We continue this work because we believe that it helps to change the face of the State of Israel into a more humane one. The ability of Palestinians to access their lands has improved immeasurably since our 2006 High Court victory, and in many cases we no longer need to maintain a physical presence or intervene in order to ensure that farmers can harvest their olives. In the areas wherePalestinianscannotgowithout prior coordination (either because of closure orders, fear, or because the army has convinced the Palestinians that they cannot or should not go on their own), the number of days that the army allocates to the harvest is still inadequate. Unlike last year, this year all villages we were in touch with succeeded in completing their harvest in areas next to settlements. However, four villages were not able to complete their harvesting on their lands trapped between the Separation Barrier and the 1967 border; the army did not allow them enough days to reach these areas, or any at all. In this coming year, we intend to continue working with the army to increase the number of harvest days so that so that farmers can reach all of their olive groves. Although the presence of the army as well as our presence in the fields givePalestinianfarmersanincreasing sense of security while harvesting their olives, 2012 witnessed a sharp increase in damage to trees and property, particularly before the olive harvest even started. In just one week, for example, 450 trees were damaged, destroyed, or stripped of their fruit in Yanun, Krayut, Ein Abbus and Meghayer. The economic cost of the damaged trees is immense, and the emotional cost is also great. As in previous years, RHR acted on several fronts to request army protection of trees and property. Our ongoing presence in the field and immediate response to violations continues to be the most effective way to address the challenges on the ground. This report covers both the 2012 and 2013 planting seasons. Each year, RHR provides approximately 3,000 olive trees to be planted in areas in danger of takeover, or where settlers have cut, uprooted and/or burned trees in acts of vandalism and arson. We have reduced the number of places where we bring Israelis to plant together with farmers because, in some cases, the farmers prefer not to attract attention. However, Tu B’Shvat,theJewishnewyearfortrees, continues to be the day in which we organize a major pubic planting, with many volunteers. In doing so, RHR presents a different Jewish face than that of the extremists who carry out the “price tag” attacks. In 2012, despite army attempts to block our arrival, 22 people joined RHR in planting in El-Jenia village in the Northern West Bank, where a “Price Tag” attack had taken place days before.Thearmyleftafterforcingusto leave, and the Palestinians were able to quietly resume work. Nineteen volunteers and staff members joined us in planting 50 trees at the kindergarten in the Jabal, in solidarity with the Jahalin Bedouin, who were threatened with being relocated to the garbage dump of Abu Dis in early 2012 (see below). In December 2012, trees were cut down on lands belonging to farmers from A-Asawiya. Two days later, RHR volunteers joined Palestinians in replanting. In January 2013, we plantedtreesinKusra,anincreasingly tense area. Less than a week later, on the very day we were helping Fawzi Ibrahim in nearby Jalud (see below), we discovered that some of our trees had been uprooted in the middle of the night. The windows of a tractor were shattered, and hundreds of rocks were thrown at the home of an elderly couple living on the outskirts of the village. We therefore returned on Tu B’Shvat with several busloads of volunteers, and the Palestinians indicated that they would set up a system to keep watch over the trees even at night. The Olive Tree Campaign – Agricultural Access  Our ongoing presence in the field and immediate response to violations continues to be the most effective way to address the challenges on the ground. 6RHR 2013 7 RHR 2013
  5. 5. In 2012, Israel destroyed at least 35 rainwater cisterns used by Palestinian communities, 20 of them in the area of Hebron and the southern Hebron Hills. Usually, the communities whose cisterns were destroyed are a short distance from settlements and unauthorized outposts that enjoy a regular water supply. While these outposts have no permits the Civil Administration almost always destroys Palestinian tents, animal pens and food storage facilities for the lack of permit. Drying up the water supply of Palestinians is an affront to our basic religious and human morals. In the summer of 2012, in response to this critical situation, Rabbis for Human Rights began assisting Palestinians in renovating destroyed water cisterns in the South Hebron Hills. We coordinated with both Ta’ayush and the Palestinian NGO “EWASH,” which specializes in water rights. Twelve student volunteers from the Canadian organization “Operations Groundswell” participated in this program. The group and some of our staff members spent a week renovating a cistern at Bir El Id, near Mitzpe Yair, one of the more radical outposts. The group dug out the cistern and transformed it from an unusable source of water to one that could start operating again. A week later after we had dug out this cistern, we learned that Hajj Ismail, upon whose land the cistern is located, was severely attacked with a knife by four masked settlers. It is possible that this attack was a response to our work there. Advocating on behalf of the Jahalin Bedouin The Jahalin tribe were uprooted from their lands in Tel Arad in the Negev in the early 1950s and resettled in the West Bank. Until 1967 the Jahalin preserved their traditional Bedouin lifestyle of thousands of years, supporting themselves mainly through herding. With the onset of the Israeli occupation, the Israeli army took control of large swaths of the Jahalin tribe’s grazing areas in the Jordan Valley, closing them off to Palestinians. The Jahalin were consequently squeezed into the area oftheJerusalem-Jerichohighwayand forced to abandon their traditional way of life. Since the establishment of Ma’aleh Adumim in 1975, the expanding settlement has repeatedly displaced Jahalin encampments. Rabbis for Human Rights has been advocating on behalf of the rights of the Jahalin Bedouin since 1997 when an encampment was demolished, and the Jahalin were given shipping containers to live in on an exposed hilltop near the Abu Dis garbage dump. In November 2011 we learned that the CivilAdministration had reached an advanced stage of planning for the forced relocation of 600 Jahalin living near Mishor Adumim to a landfill site even closer to the dump. Such a plan, if implemented, would seriously endanger the health of the Jahalin. To help change the face of Israel, and to encourage the Israeli government to act on behalf of our Jewish values, we quickly launched both international and local campaigns and protests, with the help of the Catholic Comboni Sisters and the Jahalin Association. We asked our supporters to send letters protesting the plan to move the Jahalin to the garbage dump, and many of you responded. We also initiated a campaign appealing to Jewishleadersabroad,whileB’Tselem organized tours for journalists and international diplomats. Although the 18th Knesset was reluctant to intervene on behalf of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, even in cases of gross violations of human rights, in this case the details of the developments and an outpouring of international concern permitted us to request a session to discuss the matter in a joint meeting of the Environment and Health Committees, headed by MK Dov Khenin. We asked the committee to direct the Civil Administration to reverse its decision to adopt the plan to move the Jahalin to the dump in Abu Dis. Despite the positions of MKs Arye Eldad and Uri Ariel of the National Union Party, and of Uri Maklev of United Torah Judaism, and despite the claims by the representative of the Ministry of Environment that the site was scheduled to close, in the end the Ministry of Defense representative announced that its ministry would conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to cover the environmental risks in the area slated to absorb the Jahalin; only afterwards would any plans be crystallized regarding the actual relocation – and then only through dialogue with the residents. In addition to promising to relocate the Jahalin only in dialogue with the Jahalin, the Bedouin community of Khan El Akhmar was also promised that its school, built of tires and mud, would be allowed to continue until an alternative location was agreed. This effectively cancelled the demolition order against the school until an alternative location is finalized, much to the delight of the 85 children who attend the school and their parents. RHR believes that the right to education is a basic human right, as well as one rooted within our Jewish tradition. RHR welcomed these decisions, but the Israeli authorities still plan to demolish the school and to displace all the Bedouin in the area, including those in the adjacent E1 corridor. Having finished their study of health and other Bedouin issues, the CivilAdministration has suggested two options to the Jahalin, both of which would entail displacing other Palestinians. The Jahalin reject this, but are willing to consider options in the Jerusalem-Dead Sea corridor on land that does not belong to others. This past summer, RHR again organized English and Hebrew lessons for the children in Khan El Akhmar and al-Jabal. Together with the Catholic Comboni Sisters, three RHR volunteers, and Ibtisam Hirsh, a local Bedouin woman, we organized a summer camp for 70 children, during which we even took the kids to the beach in Tel Aviv for a day. For most of the children this was the first time they had ever seen the sea. Renovating Water Cisterns in South Hebron Hills To help change the face of Israel, and to encourage the Israeli government to act on behalf of our Jewish values, we quickly launched both international and local campaigns and protests 8RHR 2013 9 RHR 2013
  6. 6. East Jerusalem The Campaign against the Eviction of the Sumarin Family in Silwan RHR, RHR-NA and additional partners launched a public letter writing campaign against the eviction, organized by Shatil Fellow Moriel Rothman and our Communications Department. Our campaign urged the JNF, as a group concerned with the well-being of the State of Israel, to stop this injustice. In parallel, we also ran an effective media campaign with dozens of media reports appearing in Ha’aretz and the American Jewish press. Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity held vigils and demonstrations in Silwan. As a result, thousands of people in the US, Israel and around the world responded, and In last year’s annual report, we mentioned an emerging campaign to prevent the eviction of the Sumarin family from their home in Silwan by Himnuta, a subsidiary of the Jewish National Fund. The home had originally been seized through the subsequently discredited and discontinued practice of declaring properties as abandoned, even when family members were living in them. The Custodian for Absentee Property transferred the Sumarin home to the Jewish National Fund. We knew that in similar cases the JNF transferred the properties to settler groups such as Elad as part of the broader plan to Judaize Silwan. Using lawyers who often work for Elad, the JNF had a court order that the family could be expelled as of November 28th, 2011. Campaigning against the Slopes of Mount Scopus National Park Victory in Lifta an American board member of the JNF even resigned in protest. As Moriel Rothman recalls, “Thousands and thousands of letters were sent, dozens of op-eds and media articles were written, a number of protests, tours and solidarity vigils were held and when the December 18th eviction date was again delayed, and then the next date was delayed again, it began to become clear that the JNF did not intend to evict the Sumarin family in this round of the battle. Although the victory was not complete and the possibility of eviction still remains a reality to this day, it was a victory. We had won. The Sumarin family, the Palestinian and Israeli and international activists, the NGOs and Human Rights organizations, and RHR’s voice of a Judaism that puts justice first: we had won.” While the JNF has only said that it is not evicting the family ”for now,” we can proudly report over a year later that the Sumarin family is still in their home and the process remains frozen. The Ruweidi family was in a similar position, but decided to take proactive action and sue to register their land in their name. Again, RHR was part of a coalition to spread the word about the case. However, this time the Court ruled in the family’s favor, enabling them to register their property. Currently RHR is also following the cases of several families in Sheikh Jarrah. The family in the most imminent danger is the Shamasneh family, where settler agent Arieh King has apparently succeeded in locating and obtaining the cooperation of a woman claiming pre-1948 ownership. The family acknowledges that they have been renting the property, but have claimed protected tenant status. RHR acknowledges that Jews can legitimately own property in East Jerusalem, but protests the “eifa v’eifa” double standards that allow Jews to avail themselves of the courts to claim property, but not Palestinians.  RHR has joined with five other Israeli organizations and the Palestinian Popular Committees from A-Tur and Issawiya to oppose the proposed “Slopes of Mount Scopus” plan in which the Municipality of Jerusalem and the National Parks Authority are planning to build a “national park” in this area. There is no reason to create a national park in this location, other than to seize the last remaining land from the two adjacent villages/neighborhoods. East Jerusalem has an extremely disproportionate percentage of land designated as “parks.” There are also threatened homes in the endangered area. Recently RHR helped to stop the demolition of three homes that actually had a restraining order preventing the demolitions. RHR was also part of a small victory in the village of Lifta, just outside Jerusalem, whose Palestinian residentsfled/wereexpelledin1948. Afterwards, Kurdish immigrants were dumped in the neighborhood. The Kurdish immigrants are now being threatened with eviction, and a tender was granted to demolish the village in order to construct high-end homes. RHR was the only NGO willing to join activists in successfully getting the tender cancelled because of the historical nature of the buildings to be destroyed. However, the State and the developers have not necessarily given up. " We had won. The Sumarin family, the Palestinian and Israeli and international activists, the NGOs and Human Rights organizations, and RHR’s voice of a Judaism that puts justice first: we had won." 10RHR 2013 11 RHR 2013
  7. 7. OT Legal Department Over the past year, RHR has steadily increased its resources and capacity to take on an unprecedented number of legal cases and to raise awareness of the plight of Palestinian land owners in the South Hebron Hills, both among Israelis and the international community. Together with our partner organizations Ta’ayush and Breaking the Silence, RHR has been able to elevate our work in the South Hebron Hills to new levels. There and elsewhere in the Occupied Territories, we have achieved important and sometimes extraordinary reversals of the ongoing Israeli annexation of land. Inthispastyear,RHRhashad My favorite RHR moment this year was early one morning in the South Hebron Hills, just after sunrise. We brought a group out to dig a reservoir for a Palestinian farmer. Earlier, RHR had helped him confirm ownership of his land in the courts. The spot where we were working is surrounded by Israeli settlements on the nearby hilltops. As I was getting ready to pray Shacharit beside a nearby well, a Palestinian shepherd arrived to water his flock. There I stood, kippah on my head, tzitzit swaying with my movements. I could have been anyone from the nearby settlements. He eyed me nervously. When he opened the well to discover that the rope had been cut and there was no bucket to draw water, he turned to leave. “Wait,” I said in a mixture of Hebrew and broken Arabic, “we’ve got a rope and bucket.” I ran back to our worksite, got what we needed, and ran back to him. Then together we drew water and poured it out for the sheep. We talked about his home, how long his family had been living in the area and relations with the nearby settlements. Just that simple act, of being openly Jewish and helping a Palestinian who didn’t know me from Adam to water his flock, helping him to be economically viable in his own homeland, felt like the essence of our work to me. Somanyofmycherishedmoments involve being openly Jewish in a context where the association with Jews is fearful, hateful, or both. Sitting in a room of about forty Arab men visiting their father and relative who had been beaten up by Jews… Going to assess the damage to a Palestinian farmer’s trees after nearly a hundred and fifty had been cut down. So many instances of this… Taking a group of Israeli and Palestinian religious leaders on an expedition into the wilderness to break down barriers and build mutual understanding. Getting caught in the rain, finding shelter, andendingupwearingoneanother’s clothes.Then, after sunset, davening Aravit in a tiny room surrounded by Palestinians, followed by bearing intimate witness to their own evening prayers. Countless visits to the Jahalin Bedouin, countless cups of tea and coffee, even though I don’t drink coffee. Having a heart-to- heart talk with a Palestinian pastor about the possibility for peace and co-existence, discovering how much we see things the same, and how much we feel differently. One of the most difficult and rewarding conversations I’ve had this year. Yonatan’s position with RHR is one of four in various RHR departments made possible by a generous grant from the Asia Tan Foundation to introduce rabbinic students and young rabbis to the possibility of human rights work as a part of their rabbinical functions. Some memories from RHR’s work this year by Yonatan Shefa Rabbinical Student Assistant in the Department of Human Rights in the Occupied Territories RHR’s OT legal department, led by Adv. Quamar Mishirqi-Assad, comprises four full-time attorneys, two field workers and a legal advisor. The primary focus of our work is preventing or reversing the takeover of Palestinian lands and ensuring that Palestinian farmers can safely access those lands, Currently, two dormant or simmering issues are coming to a head and the coming year will largely determine whether the cave dwellers of the South Hebron Hills hold on to their lands.The first is a renewed attempt to expel the residents of eight Palestinian villages to create “Live Firing Zone 918,“ and the renewed attempt to wipe Susya off the map. Stemming from our long- standing goal to end administrative home demolitions, we have a twice postponed High Court appeal to return planning for Palestinian communities in Area C to Palestinian hands. Much of RHR’s work centers on the South Hebron Hills and Shilo Valley, and we have had several important successes this year returning land, winning compensation, and renewing long-denied access. Our growth plan is to find the resources allowing us to build on our experience and apply it throughout the Occupied Territories. In the past year we have begun to expand, particularly into the Bethlehem region. We work closely with Kerem Navot, which employs aerial photographs to understand the history of land takeovers. In the South Hebron Hills we enjoy a strategic partnership with Ta’ayush, whose activists accompany Palestinians accessing their lands, and with Breaking the Silence, which engages in advocacy, media work and alternative tourism. We work also with additional Israeli, Palestinian and international organizations, including Comet, JLAC, Bimkom and B’Tselem.  Just that simple act, of being openly Jewish and helping a Palestinian who didn’t know me from Adam to water his flock, helping him to be economically viable in his own homeland, felt like the essence of our work to me. 12RHR 2013 13 RHR 2013
  8. 8. 15 RHR 2013 several major achievements. The most notable include: Returning the residents of Bir El ‘Id to additional caves. Even after RHR returned the residents of Bir El ‘Id in 2009 to their village, from which they had been expelled for almost ten years because of army backed settler intimidation, the army has continued to issue demolition orders on everything they attempt to build, and say that even some of the original caves remained off limits. RHR therefore celebrated as we returned villagers to five additional caves, a water cistern and two animal pens RHR argued that these lands were part and parcel of the lands we had already agreed on in 2009. Palestinians resumed farming in areas where they had long been denied access due to army- backed settler intimidation in the Shilo Valley. This success means that for now the unauthorized hilltop outposts of Esh Kodesh and Akhia will again be surrounded by Palestinian worked fields. RHR submitted a High Court appeal on behalf of a land owner in Jalud to return 256 dunams of land surrounding Esh Kodesh. Not only had settlers enforced an expanding “forbidden zone” year after year, but in 2011 they actually planted a vineyard on some of these lands. Most of the human rights violations RHR deals with in the Occupied Territories take place in Area C (the areas still under full Israeli control, accounting for some 60 percent of the total area of the West Bank). Incredibly the settlers even blocked access to lands in Area B (under Palestinian civil control, but Israeli military control). Under pressure from the pending appeal the Legal Advisor closed the area to Israelis and ordered that the Palestinian land owner could access his land in coordination with the Israeli army. RHR again had to pressure the army when its procrastination almost made Fawzi Ibrahim miss the planting season for winter wheat and lose his investment in seeds. On the first day the reluctant security forces were not adequately prepared to deal with settler opposition, and ordered the Palestinians out of the fields. On the second day, despite primarily female settlers with babies doing everything they could to block the tractors, Fawzi finally plowed most of his land and sowed his wheat. He has not yet been allowed into the vineyard because of a settler appeal, and on the day he plowed, he discovered an additional vineyard. An in- depth Channel 2Television expose broke the story to the Israeli public, including the connection with the ongoing attacks on Kusra (see above in the OT Field Department report). Settlers are increasingly filing appeals against decisions by the OT Legal Advisor in order to delay justice; and accordingly the failure of such an appeal this year is particularly significant. In 2006 RHR took on the case of five families (300 people) who had been forced off their own land after their livestock had been poisoned and after they could no longer endure the harassment and physical threats posed by the radical settler Yaakov Talia, who set up the unauthorized outpost he named “Lucifer’s Farm.” In early 2012 the army closed the area and announced that the Palestinian families could return to working their lands. Talia appealed the High Court decision but this year requested to cancel his claim because he understood that the law was not on his side. However, he reserved the right to appeal again, pointing out that if the State adopts the Edmund Levi Committee recommendations, the law will be on his side. Former High Court justice Edmund Levi was appointed by Prime Minister Netanyahu to head a commission searching to legalize the building of settlements on land which the Israeli government recognizes as privately-owned Palestinian land. Noting the fact that there were no Palestinians on this commission and wondering whether the effect on Palestinians was at all a consideration in the deliberations, RHR submitted a position paper documenting village by village the many ways, beyond the obvious theft of land, in which the existence of outposts leads to human rights violations in the villages where we work. We also submitted an extensive section based on Jewish sources dealing with the image of God, double standards, property rights of non-Jews in the Land of Israel, and the inevitable injustice created when a group holding power appropriates for itself the “burden“ of determining how to be just towards the powerless and voiceless. Last year, we reported that we had managed to temporarily freeze the demolition of solar power installations at Imneizel village in the South Hebron Hills following our legal work and immense international pressure. Recently, the Israeli authorities requested that we withdraw our legal appeal as they decided that the demolitions were not going to take place at all. In response to an RHR petition demanding that the Israeli army protect Palestinian property and possessions, the army was ordered to pay compensation to elderly Palestinian land owners directly underneath the Bat Ayin settlement, who suffer repeated attacks and damage to their 60 year old olive trees in “Price Tag” attacks. However, the army made it clear that the compensation was not an admission of responsibility, and refused to take any additional steps to protect the farmers and their trees. With all of the positive improvements in safe agricultural access after RHR’s 2006 High Court victory, this is but one of example of how authorities have not fulfilled additional stipulations of the decision ordering security forces to protect Palestinian farmers and to bring people to justice. RHR therefore took this case to the Israeli High Court, which in February 2013 gave the security forces 60 days to explain why they were not doing more to protect the landowners. The Assad family from the village of El-Khader (between Alon Shvut and Elazar), has been plagued by constant settler harassment and land encroachment. The extremist settler organization Women in Green repeatedly has trespassed on these lands where they have planted saplings, olive trees and even erected several benches with plaques in honor of the donors. The Civil Administration in Beit El heeded our request that the area be closed to Israelis in order to prevent further incursions into the lands and ordered the army to remove the trees planted. Since the Second Intifada, the Hajaja-Jabarin family, whose lands are adjacent to Tekoa, has been subjected to constant land closures by the army, attacks by neighboring settlers on both person and property, and attempts to appropriate land by planting trees. RHR submitted several requests to the Civil Administration that it take action against the settlers and the army. With our intervention, the family now is able to access lands that had been inaccessible for more than a decade. RHR is appealing the decision to allow the family to access their lands only by prior coordination with the Civil Administration and is demanding free access to these lands.  With our intervention, the family now is able to access lands that had been inaccessible for more than a decade.  14RHR 2013
  9. 9. Firing Zone 918 For over a decade, the 1,800 residents of 12 Palestinian villages in the area of Masafer-Yatta in the South Hebron Hills have lived under the threat of demolition, evacuation and dispossession. In 1999, the Israel security forces declared the area a firing zone and expelled 700 men, women and children. An interim injunction issued by the Israeli High Court enabled them to return to their homes in March 2000. The State postponed the case time after time, until the new president of the High Court, Justice Asher Grunis, urged the State to either drop the case or pursue it. The Ministry of Defense intensified military exercises in the area and declared that it still wanted to expel the residents of eight villages. They also demanded stringent limitations on development for the remaining four villages. RHR is not legally representing the threatened villages against the expulsions themselves, but is part of a broad coalition seeking to organize Israeli public and international opposition to the planned expulsions. Our legal department is demanding planning for two of the threatened cave communities, Sfai’i and Majaz, as part of our opposition to planned demolitions of British development projects in these villages. The victory of March 2000 has become an albatross around the necks of the residents because of the aforementioned draconian interpretation of the status quo mandated in the interim injunction that makes development even more impossible than in the rest of the Occupied Territories. It is therefore not sufficient to merely prevent expulsion. Zoning in Area C Susya and Firing Zone 918 are but two of the many examples of how discriminatory planning by army committees without Palestinian representation lead to home demolitions and the inability of Palestinian communities in Area C to develop. RHR’s High Court petition demanding that planning in Area C be returned to Palestinian hands was twice postponed in 2012, and is now scheduled to be heard on October 3rd, 2013. When requesting the latest postponement in November, the State claimed that the army’s Civil Administration was working hard to make changes to the planning system and needed more time. 16RHR 2013 Quamar Misirqi-Asad, who directs RHR’s OT Legal Department, says that she needs to go the extra mile on behalf of Abu-Jabar Sleibi because she looks in his eyes and sees her own grandfather. We in RHR often speak of the need to see God’s image in every human being, and the truth is that Quamar and the rest of our staff go the extra mile for everybody whom we seek to defend. However, it would be a great start if we could all look in the eyes of human rights victims, or potential victims, and see our own grandparents, parents, siblings, partners and children. Pending Cases Defending Palestinian village of Susya against Demolition In October 2011, the army commander in the South Hebron Hills declared sections of land in the area of Susya “closed to Israelis” in response to an appeal submitted by Palestinian families requesting that they be able to reach their lands where Israeli settlers have been taking over land. This was just one of a string of successes returning lands to their rightful owners. We know that the settlers in the region held emergency meetings regarding our successes. The lands closed in 2011 represented approximately 20 percent of the lands covered in a petition we submitted on army procrastination on many additional cases of settler land takeovers, denial of access, and lack of protection for Palestinians. Altogether, the petition deals with some 2,500 dunams of land. We believe that this is the reason the extreme right-wing Israeli NGO Regavim and the adjacent settlement, also called Susya, submitted a High Court Appeal in February 2012 challenging the “slow“ pace of demolitions in the area and requesting that Palestinian Susya be demolished. In June 2012, probably due to pressure from Regavim, demolition notices were distributed, with 70 structures or 80 percent of the homes in the village targeted for demolition. The remaining 20 percent of structures already had demolition orders on them. The entire village therefore is under threat of demolition, and the future of the residents, comprising 120 people (including 25 women and 70 children), is unclear. In February 2013, the Court heard together both the Regavim petition and RHR’s petition. The Court accepted the State’s position that it could not demolish the homes before processing an alternative building plan submitted by RHR, and gave us an additional 90 days to submit an additional plan for some homes in the adjacent village of Wadi Khesheish, not included in the original plan because a second organization is representing them. The Court did not accept the State’s excuses for its procrastination on the cases listed in our petition and requested a progress report within 90 days. This appeal has finally given us the opportunity to go head-to-head with Regavim, who have submitted many similar appeals in the past, using misleading statistics to claim reverse discrimination against settlers. While they lose almost every time, they actually win. The Court has always accepted the State’s position that its actions are proper since it is executing demolition orders at its own pace. RHR’s goal is not only to prevent the demolition of Susya and restore Palestinian access, but also to challenge the legitimacy of demolitions when discriminatory planning makes it almost impossible for Palestinians to build legally. The case of Susya is particularly poignant because the residents were reduced to living in caves in their fields after being expelled from their nearby village. The village was declared an archeological site after the discovery of an ancient synagogue. In 2001, the army expelled the Palestinians from their caves and destroyed most of them. Israel’s High Court returned them, but the inability to get building permits meant that anything they built to replace the demolished caves was illegal. THE GRANDPARENT TEST 17 RHR 2013
  10. 10. RHR’sRightsCenterprovidesJewish and Arab residents of the Hadera and Wadi Ara region with advice and legal help regarding their socioeconomic rights. In 2012, the Center served about 200 people, many of whom had first turned to RHR because of the subsequently defeated Wisconsin Plan. In addition, RHR began going door- to-door in selected neighborhoods in Hadera, informing people about the Rights Center. As a result of this proactive approach, the Rights Center received numerous additional requests for help. We deal with an average of 24 new cases per month. During 2012, Rabbi Sigal Asher joined us at the Rights Center, as one of the four young rabbis/rabbinical students added to on our staff through a special grant, replacing Nico Socolovsky, who left to complete his rabbinical training in the US. The major focus of the center is to assist the unemployed and underemployed with issues relating to rights available from the National Insurance Institute. This includes ensuring access to unemployment benefits and ensuring that employees have access to benefits such as paid leave, sick days, and assisting low- wage earners to pull themselves out of the cycle of poverty. While helping the unemployed and underemployed in Hadera and Wadi Ara to secure their social and economic rights, RHR will also identify issues requiring policy change on the national level. Helping to improve people’s lives locally is an essential part of our strategy to change the face of Israel nationally. Currently, RHR is launching a campaign based on a common denominator uniting many of the cases we are dealing with both in Hadera and elsewhere. Statistics indicate that at least one family member is working in 52.9 percent of families living below the poverty line. Behind the statistics are real human tragedies caused by the combined effect of inadequate wages, an unresponsive system, and the growing holes in Israel’s social security net during our transition from a welfare state to a neo-liberal economy. RHR’s Rights Center found itself in the spotlight following the tragic suicide of the late Moshe Silman, who sought help from our Rights Center after meeting Rabbi Idit Lev at the social justice protests in Haifa (see below for Rabbi Idit Lev’s moving eulogy for Moshe Silman). Moshe’s story was a particularly tragic example of a much broader reality. With Rabbi Lev being quoted and interviewed in the Israeli media after Moshe’s death, we found ourselves inundated with calls from people in similar situations to that of Moshe Silman. Composed of 20 Arab and Jewish women from Hadera and Wadi Ara, the majority of whom are single mothers, the group is currently addressing the socioeconomic rights of single parents. This year, they began working on extending annual subsidy given at the beginning of each school year to single parents to include high-school children. RHR hopes to create additional empowerment groups focused on other issues in other parts of the country where we already have a presence. Dorit explains the influence of RHR’s empowerment group: "To be able to express yourself is important; suddenly I see that I can speak without fear and without hesitating out of worry that I am saying something wrong.” Kulthum, an Arab woman fighting for the right of her daughter Ismi’ye to ride the district school bus said, "Suddenly, I said that I wanted to be strong like Ayesha [RHR social economic justice facilitator and field worker] and to request the right for my daughter [to bus transportation] in a loud, clear and confident voice, and to make it clear that I am requesting a right, not charity". Rights Center Jewish-Arab Women’s Empowerment Group Socioeconomic Justice Department Inga, a woman whom we are helping to get disability benefit, said after the last time her application was rejected: “In another few months we will reapply. You will help me, right? If you help me, I won’t give up.” We promised that we will continue to help her. When Aaron, a 24 year-old student, entered RHR’s Rights Center for the first time he was scared, as he didn’t know how he could cope with a debt of 2,000 shekels that he claimed he didn’t owe. After less than a week, the debt was reduced to only 181 shekels, and Aaron (who looked much better) said to us: “I also don’t owe this. I don’t intend to pay them. I am going to argue with them!” The change from a person who was broken when he came to our office a few days earlier to a person who could stand on his own was amazing. The past year was a significant one for RHR’s Socioeconomic Justice Department. The tent protest movement which began in the summer of 2011 captured the headlines in Israel and thrust social justice issues into the national spotlight. As a result of the momentum of the protest movement, our economic and social justice work was reenergized. RHR’s Socioeconomic Justice Department, led by Rabbi Idit Lev, administers our Rights Center in Hadera, which helps around 200 unemployed and under-employed Israelis from Hadera and Wadi Ara to demand their socioeconomic rights. RHR also operates an empowerment group of Jewish and Arab women from Hadera and Wadi Ara, who have begun to work on promoting better conditions for single parents, the majority of whom are women. Rabbi Idit Lev also represents RHR in several coalitions concerning poverty, the state budget, and the groups that were formed following the social justice protests during the summer of 2011. We are beginning to focus on a common denominator linking many of the people we work with: the inability of working people to support their families. 18RHR 2013 19 RHR 2013
  11. 11. Under the direction of Rabbi Arik Ascherman, RHR has developed a number of special projects. These projects include our work with public housing tenants to ameliorate public housing; to support the African asylum seekers; and to advocate for the struggle of the unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev. Special Projects Public Housing The initiatives described in last year’s report have blossomed into a major program area for RHR. While affordable housing was one of the main rallying cries of the 2011 protest movement, most of the demands have since been “buried” in committees. The need is great. Over 40,000 Israelis are on the official waiting list for public housing, many waiting for six years or more. However, the list does not reflecttheactualneed.Inappropriate criteria leave many like the late Moshe Silman ineligible for support. Many of those in need repeatedly rent apartments they cannot afford until they are evicted, while others sleep in cars, on friends’ sofas or on park benches. The trauma suffered by children is particularly tragic. Nothing is done to replenish the public housing stock, let alone to increaseit.Manyexistingapartments are in need of serious repair and some suffer from potentially life- threatening problems. Thousands of other government owned buildings are left empty. Money intended for public housing is diverted to other uses, while those in need face an often obtuse and insensitive bureaucracy. Last year we described how we first encountered this issue in Beit Shean and began to develop our policy recommendations together with public housing residents in the city. At the time, the local branch of Amidar, one of Israel’s semi-governmental public housing companies, seemed utterly unresponsive and sometimes even hostile. With the guidance of Rabbi Arik Ascherman, Rabbi Kobi Weiss has reversed this situation. Realizing that the root of the problems in Beit Shean is the difficulty that individuals face when standing alone against a powerful bureaucracy, Rabbi Weiss opened lines of communication with Amidar. Students from RHR’s Jezreel Valley College Human Rights Yeshiva, and area volunteers, including some who live in public housing, he has helped resolve debts, avoid eviction, obtain repairs, find appropriate apartments, etc. This past June, JezreelValley College chose the work of human services student Rivka Yones with RHR’s public housing advocacy program in Beit Shean as one of the two outstanding projects of the year, out of 130 competing projects. Since September of 2011, we have helped 85 tenants, successfully resolving 25 cases and assisting in the resolution of an additional 20 cases. We are continuing to work on most of the opencases.Ourchallengeisthatmost of the tenants with open cases have problems related to policies decided at the regional or national level; we are drawing on the issues these cases raise as we move forward with efforts to change national policy (see below). It is not our goal to remain in Beit Shean indefinitely: this year we are focusing on empowering tenants and local volunteers to support each other and to resolve problems on their own. While in Beit Shean we work mainly with public housing tenants, RHR worksinJerusalemwiththosewhoare not even deemed eligible for public housing due to unrealistic criteria. The protest encampment initially sponsored and sustained by RHR in 2011 has become a collective of activists and those in need of public housing called “the Ma’abarah” (echoing the name given to transit camps for new immigrants to Israel in the 1950’s). Long after the middle class protestors folded up their tents in the fall of 2011, the Ma’abarah was one of a handful of low income groups that continued the struggle. With many members literally having nowhere to live, the collective broke into abandoned buildings (an activity not sanctioned by RHR), set up new encampment sites or lived in donated office space, until the Municipality eventually provided supplementary funds allowing those in need to rent. However, these funds have now run out, and some members of the Ma’abarah are again in danger of eviction. The Ma’abarah has been one of the groups continuing with high profile protests highlighting the unresponsiveness of municipal and national officials. For example, during the Sukkot holiday the Ma’abarah built a “Sukkah on Wheels” representing needed homes, and paraded from Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s public Sukkah to the home of Prime Minister Netanyahutoalargepublicgathering of Kurdish Jewry in Sacher Park. These protests elicited a defensive reaction from outgoing Housing Minister Ariel Atias. While he didn’t change the problematic way his Ministry operated, Atias made some proposals to replenish the supply of public housing. The proposals constituted an insufficient step in the right direction, but they were not adopted by the government. In some cases demonstrations were met with police brutality and arrests. The Ma’abarah has waged several campaigns on behalf of individuals faced with eviction, most notably waging a successful campaign against Amidar to prevent the eviction of Ovadia and Miriam Ben Avraham. In a very powerful Tisha B’Av Mincha service and program, RHR and the Ma’abarah drew links between the loss of our national home mourned on Tisha B’Av and the housing insecurity facing many Israelis.We also built on the theme of emerging hope which characterizes the Tisha B’Av Mincha. In May 2012, the Ma’abarah entered a former kindergarten abandoned for three years in the low income Katamonim neighborhood, where the need for public housing is particularly acute. It turned out that this property Portrait of one of our young rabbis/rabbinical students: Nico Sokolovsky For the past two years, Nico Sokolovsky managed our Rights Center in Hadera. In June 2012 he left in order to complete his rabbinical studies in the US. Nico offers the following thoughts on the center and on his experience in the field: “The center in Hadera is our opportunity to be present in the place where we are needed – it is no coincidence that Makom [place, in Hebrew] is one of the names of God. The center is an expression of our support for a population that does not get a hearing owing to its position and location… Indeed in this place we get an opportunity to be present! “Being present,” after two years in this position, is in my understanding a mitzvah of the highest importance – maybe it should be included in the Ten Commandments. “I am the Lord your God” is interpreted by the Rambam as a command to know God; I interpret it as an invitation to be present. My job gave me the chance to visit and to accompany the sick; to care for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the weak, and those beaten by the system; and to try to improve on the experiment of realizing the dream of a Jewish state; to feel that I am engaged in the Jewish-Zionist enterprise; to raise my voice and shout against the loss of direction that our country suffers from…To leave (if only for a minute) the small closed reality that I live in and to meet the “other” (in terms of economic status, social grouping, religion, etc.) and – through this meeting with him or her – to widen my knowledge of my God. As a result of my work for this organization, my understanding of justice has deepened. Thank you!”   20RHR 2013 21 RHR 2013
  12. 12. 22RHR 2013 Moshe, we met last year at the tent encampment, where we took part in many late-night discussions. Only after we had dismantled our tents did I learn that you needed help in exercising your rights. At a meeting about the future of the social protest movement, you told me, in between cigarettes, that you were not hopeful about your future. You added that you would not live on the street. I do not recall my answer at that moment, but I remember that I was optimistic, as I am with every person who enters through the door of our Rights Center, with the hope that this time we will win. I knew that we had ten months to prevent you from being thrown out on the street. We immediately set to work. As the months passed and doors were slammed in our faces, your despair grew. In May, RHR’s Rights Center, with assistance from other friends in Haifa, succeeded in reinstating your disability benefit, but not in obtaining any rental assistance. Neither letters nor lawyers nor the appeal of Knesset member Orly Levy-Abekasis helped. We tried every approach, and in the last weeks of your life, we tried to change your fate, but were unable to.At the beginning of June, I told friends at RHR’s Rights Center that your case was our greatest failure in realizing rights, as you were deserving of them, but we could not manage to make the authorities understand this. On Friday, Moshe, you said to me: “I shall make my protest alone,” and you did, carrying us all away in the whirlpool. You presented Israeli society with a mirror, and an ugly image of poverty in the State of Israel 2012; a poverty that is shaming and humiliating; a poverty that cannot navigate an unbelievable maze of bureaucracy; a poverty that in even after receiving state assistance forces a person to collect handouts in order to survive. Every day since we established RHR’s Rights Center in Hadera, where I encounter daily stories of people like you, I am reminded of a sentence from the Jewish prayer after meals: “May the Lord, our Father, tend and nourish us, sustain and maintain us, and speedily grant us relief from all our troubles. Make the Lord make us dependent not on the was owned by Na’amat, the women’s organization affiliated with the Histadrut, Israel’s largest labor organization. Rather than evict the Ma’abarah, Na’amat recognized that we had commongoalsandbegannegotiating with the Ma’abarah to allow them to use the building as a neighborhood community center and a base for education and advocacy. Because the Ma’abarah is not a legal entity, RHR agreed to sign a contract on its behalf. However, around Rosh Hashana, Na’amat broke off negotiations and initiated court action to evict the Ma’abarah. We suspect that Mayor Barkat and others applied financial pressure on Na’amat. Just as we were waiting for a court ruling, Na’amat agreed to mediation. Noting their deep awareness of campaigns such as RHR’s request that overseas supporters contact their local Na’amat affiliates, Na’amat agreed to rent the premises to the Ma’abarah through the end of 2013, giving us an important base to galvanize support for public housing policy change. We ask all those who contacted Na’amat on this issue to thank the organization for resisting financial extortion and staying true to its own values. With the help of Attorney Becky Cohen-Keshet, RHR has successfully defended several other families facing eviction around the country. In the case of Rachel Levy from Yavneh, who was evicted from her apartment, we are working to reestablish her and her daughter’s right to public housing. RHR’s initiated the Public Housing Forum to translate the lessons learned at the grass roots level into policy change. The forum unites veteran policy groups and grass roots organizations. As part of the Public Housing Forum, together with the organizationsCommunityAdvocacy, the Eastern Democratic Rainbow, Shatil,Tarabut, the Periphery Forum, and the Social Welfare Department of the Jerusalem Municipality, RHR developed a position paper focusing on such issues as: Investment in public housing; Revising criteria to ensure that all those who are in need are deemed eligible; Transparency; Changing the often demeaning treatment of tenants by public housing officials; A total freeze on evictions. As reported last year, the Forum created a broad-based Knesset Public Housing Caucus to translate the passion of the protest movement into concrete public housing gains. In 2012, the caucus hosted a public hearing in the Knesset and a Public Housing Day, including another Knesset hearing and discussions in several Knesset committees. The Forum has prepared proposed legislation to address each of our policy demands, and will be introducing this into the Knesset in 2013.  A Eulogy for Moshe Silman z”l by Rabbi Idit Lev  The shocking and tragic self- immolation of the late Moshe Silman (see Rabbi Idit Lev’s moving eulogy below) during a demonstration in June 2012 powerfully highlighted the closed doors many Israelis face in dealing with the public housing bureaucracy. Moshe Silman’s state of desperation was expressed in a note he left blaming the government and welfare authorities for bringing him to the brink of homelessness. While Silman’s act reflected a personal state of severe depression, it also served as a warning call regarding the human toll resulting from Israel’s move from a social welfare system to a neo-liberal philosophy. It was also a sobering reminder of our own limitations. For almost a year, several RHR staff members dealt with this case. Rabbi Idit Lev accompanied him on a daily basis, while Rabbi Arik Ascherman also helped when Rabbi Idit Lev was not available. Attorney Becky Cohen-Keshet dealt with the legal aspects of his situation. In cooperation with RHR, MK Orly Levy-Abekasis, chairperson of the Knesset Lobby for Public Housing, also tried to negotiate with the Ministry of Housing on Moshe’s behalf, but all was in vain. The Amidar official made it clear to Moshe that he was not entitled to rental assistance because he did not meet the strict criteria. Moshe appealed again and again, and refused to accept the decision that a man in his condition was not entitled to the state assistance he required in order to live with dignity. In June, the Housing Ministry rejected his appeal. With a little more time, we believe that we had a decent chance to at least obtain a rent subsidy. Sadly, in his depressed state, Moshe had lost all hope. 23 RHR 2013
  13. 13. handouts or loans of others, but rather on God’s full, open and generous hand, so that we may never be humiliated or put to shame.” Howwiseourrabbisoncewere,because now, in the State of Israel, matnat basar vedam (receiving help) involves shame and humiliation. TodayinIsraelmorethan20,000families and individuals live in Kafkaesque situations similar to that of Moshe Silman, a step away from living on the street, hungry, with not enough money to go to the doctor or to buy medicines, unable to cover expenses of the deteriorating educational system, and without any right to receive sufficient assistance from the State. Moshe, the mirror you set before us says “Enough!” You told us it was time to demand from the State to solve this national crisis. Contrary to what the Prime Minister of Israel said, this is not a personal tragedy – it is a national tragedy. The time has come for the citizens of the State of Israel to have suitable public housing, a good public healthcare system, an excellent public education system, and a welfare system which helps those who need assistance. Rabbi Heschel said: “In a democratic society, some are guilty, all are responsible.” We, as longtime social activists and the multitudes who have joined the social protest movement in the last year, have assumed our democratic responsibility of changing the State in which we live, of turning it into a place where the Rambam’s highest level of justice prevails: “You shall thou uphold him: he live with you as a resident alien” (Leviticus, 25:35). That is, strengthen him so that he does not fall and be in need. The government of Israel does not take responsibility for its actions, and it is at fault that Moshe died in vain. To the ministers in the Israeli government– you are happy to be given the honor of being a minister, but you flagrantly ignore the grave responsibility that comes with the post, the responsibility for all the citizens of the State of Israel. We will not let you forget your role, and we will not let you continue to conduct a greedy economic policy on our backs. You are guilty of Moshe’s death. You are responsible for the plight of the homeless and those sleeping on sofas in Israel, for the hungry and the sick and those struggling with poverty. We demand that you listen to the words of the Supreme Court: “Personal dignity includes… Guaranteeing the minimum required for human sustenance…A man living on the street who has no home, is a man whose dignity has been compromised; a man who is hungry is a man whose dignity has been compromised; a man who has no access to basic medical care is a man whose dignity has been compromised; a man forced to live in humiliating material conditions is a man whose dignity has been compromised.” We demand that Moshe be the last victim. We demand that you will never again compromise anybody’s dignity, and that you will never endanger anyone’s the life. I pray that Moshe will be the last victim. In these days, bayn hametzarim (the 3 weeks between the fast day of 17 Tammuz, marking the breach of the walls of Jerusalem, and Tisha’ B’Av, the fast day commemorating the destruction of the Second Temple) are difficult days, I ask all those who are in terrible need, please look after your souls and bodies. “Guard your souls well” (Deuteronomy, 4:15). Israel’s Unrecognized Bedouin Villages of the Negev As we write this report, Israel has intensified its efforts to eliminate the “unrecognized” Bedouin villages in the Negev, which either existed before Israel was founded or were created in locations to which the Israeli army itself moved Bedouin in the early years of the State. Being unrecognized, they receive no services, their homes are automatically “illegal” and subject to demolition, and their crops are sprayed and killed. RHR and our coalition partners are working to prevent the forceful transfer of some 40,000 additional Bedouin into artificially created cities, and the theft of their land. Throughout 2012, RHR continued to take action to publicize the plight of El-Arakib, which has been demolished over 40 times since the first and most traumatic demolition in July 2010. Rabbi Ascherman has been the driving force in RHR behind the support of this community. RHR, along with RHR-NA (now T’ruah) and the Jewish Alliance for Change, successfully pressured the JNF-KKL to agree to freeze the planting of forests closing in and threatening to erase the memory of El-Arakib. They have agreed to do so on four plots until the court rules on competing state and Bedouin land ownership claims. We asked the JNF to focus on their admirable work in the fields of forestry and ecology, and to leave behind that part of their history which has been complicit in unjustly creating facts on the ground and discriminating against Israel’s Arab citizens. In December, the High Court ordered that the District Court hear these claims, despite state contentions that all Bedouin proof of ownership is irrelevant because the state expropriated the lands in 1953. RHR is now urging the JNF to freeze the forestation on all of the El-Arakib lands, which will be discussed before the Court, and not just the four plots. El-Arakib is but one poignant reminder of the forced evictions that some 30,000-45,000 Bedouin in the Negev may face. Ignoring the government-sponsored recommendation of the Goldberg Committee to legalize most of the “unrecognized” villages, the government sought to implement the Prawer recommendations, calling for additional mass expulsions and forced relocation into seven artificial cities, which have become magnets for crime, poverty, drugs and despair and threaten the Bedouin way of life. In January 2013, the outgoing government adopted Minister Benny Begin’s report, which combined the understanding language of Goldberg with the cruel recommendations of Prawer. Because right-wing extremists have expressed that the planned expulsions and land theft don’t go far enough, Begin apparently felt that this is the best deal the Bedouin could get. RHR now faces the very difficult task of ensuring justice for the Bedouin in light of the Begin report. As a part of the Coexistence Forum, and along with the Negev Bedouin leadership, RHR will continue with a public campaign and lobbying strategy to prevent the passage of legislation implementing the Begin report. The JNF-KKL also shares some of the responsibility for the Prawer/Begin plan. The CEO of JNF-USA proudly proclaimed in a meeting with Rabbi Ascherman that he lobbied the Knesset to adopt the Negev Development Plan, which the Prawer/Begin plan serves. The JNF-KKL will be asked to create a green belt on much of the land.   24RHR 2013 25 RHR 2013
  14. 14. Education Department HR’s Education Department, directed by Rabbi Nava Hefetz, teaches the connection between Judaism and human rights to young people in 13 pre-military academies. We engage university students at our Human RightsYeshiva at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and have opened a new yeshiva at Jezreel Valley College. In addition to study, the yeshiva students also participate in a human rights project with RHR or another human rights organization. RHR works with Jewish and Bedouin women students at Sapir College, who learn about each other and about our faith traditions regarding human rights and the status of women. We give the women tools to be activists and they conduct shared social change projects. In partnership with the San Francisco Jewish Learning Initiative (formerly the Bureau of Jewish Education) we have produced an English version of RHR’s Tractate Independence, and developed a middle school curriculum for American Jews. “We’re ending the year not only more aware of our rights, but also more involved in the whole issue of the rights of everyone in Israel. You’ve shown us the meaning of tolerance and pluralism, the importance of looking deeper into things, conveying criticism and reinterpretation of things on the spot instead of taking what’s written as the only correct interpretation.” Nachshon Junior College, Metzudat Yoav Portrait of one of our young rabbis/rabbinical students: Rabbi Kobi Weiss Kobi comes from an ultra-Orthodox background, and was ordained within that world. He later left religion entirely, but did not find himself in the secular hi-tech world. Judaism was in his soul, and he began to teach in pre-army academies and to lead worship services for secular Israelis. Although he would put on a kippah and serve as an army rabbi when called up for reserve duty, he still had difficulty calling himself a rabbi. Working with RHR has reconnected Kobi with the purpose of Judaism. He says that it has helped him define what it truly means to be a rabbi, “The work has sharpened my philosophy of social justice from a Jewish perspective – what are goals are. Working for human rights is an integral part of the responsibility of the Jewish people in our generation, each from his/her own place. This realization doesn’t just impact on my work for RHR, but everything else I teach, how I teach, how I structure my day…It isn’t about politics and it hasn’t changed how I vote. It is much deeper than that. It is about what it means to be called ‘rabbi.’… My work in Beit Shean has crystallized my thoughts about poverty and work. I have been teaching for two years in a program for discharged soldiers. I teach them that the essence of being a leader is not averting one’s eyes and turning away.” Kobi’s community work in Beit Shean has led him to understand and to teach that you can’t simply talk about issues such as poverty via theory and statistics. You need to experience them at the grassroots level. He learned that we must be careful not to patronize those with whom we work. Our goal must be to help people overcome all of the forces that lead us not to take action to help ourselves or others. Kobi writes, “This work challenges me. RHR is a reference group. I am not Reform, Conservative or Orthodox. I come home and my family doesn’t fully understand that I am not in any particular movement. But I never had a support group. Now I have people around me whom I can speak with.” African Asylum Seekers in Israel RHR has been increasingly active regardingtheplightofAfricanasylum seekers fleeing from the killing fields of Sudan and Eritrea. Sadly, we are ignoring our own history by closing our borders. A new law now theoretically makes it a crime to help the some 60,000 refugees and asylumseekersinIsrael,andwehave one of the lowest rates in the world for granting refugee status. Current policy pits disadvantaged veteran residents of South Tel Aviv against the asylum seekers. Attacks and other manifestations of hatred and anger have become more frequent. In addition to our longstanding participation in High Court appeals seeking to allow them to work, prevent geographical restrictions on where they are allowed to live, etc., we did our best to publicize the plight of the South Sudanese who were ultimately deported in 2012 after losing the group protection still given to Eritreans and those from North Sudan. Our Education Department now brings Israeli young people to South Tel Aviv, and during the “Aseret Yamei Teshuvah” between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, RHR co-sponsored a series of vigils outside the homes of Interior Minister Yishai, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak. RHR recently asked our supporters around the world to write letters to the Ministry of Interior because refugees were being told they either face at least three years of detention or must “voluntarily” leave. That policy has been cancelled, but growing numbers of asylum seekers are being incarcerated. We have been working increasingly closely with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), and hope to: 1. Ensure that Israel implements fair policies for granting refugee status and accepts our fair share. 2. Look for creative solutions such as getting third countries to allow Israel to act as a way station, and ask Jewish and other communities in host countries to make this easier by sponsoring refugee families. We need your help to make this happen. In December, at the invitation of HIAS, Education Director Rabbi Nava Hefetz addressed a U.N interfaith conference on the plight of refugees around the world. Her remarks can be found on RHR’s website. Since the conference, Rabbi Hefetz has been working with Rabbis Ascherman and Yehudai to help establish international interfaith standards on this issue. 26RHR 2013 27 RHR 2013
  15. 15. RHR’s Education Department was particularly busy this past year. In October 2012, we increased the number of pre-military academies in which we work from 11 to 13, and we hope to continue to meet the growing demand for this program in the coming years. Some 600 young people, the majority of whom will become army officers, are exposed to our human rights teachings in these 13 pre-military academies. The students all use the same text, “Tractate Independence” – RHR’s rabbinical interpretation of the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel. We encourage the students to engage with the values in the Declaration and to compare them to Jewish worldviews found in the Jewish tradition through the generations. The goal of this course is to educate the participants and to encourage them to ask questions and challenge their views and prejudices, exploring the concept of “the other” in Israeli society. We examine the roots of the approach to “the other” in Jewish sources and using different philosophical approaches. As future soldiers, commanders and leaders, it is our hope that when fulfilling their duties at checkpoints or commanding groupsofsoldiers,theseyoungpeoplewillbeinfluenced and deeply affected by the rights of the “other.” Students in RHR’s Human Rights courses in the pre-military academies are also exposed to human rights issues outside the classroom. In the 2011- 2012 academic year, all the academies participated in a tour of the Separation Barrier in Jerusalem, and several took pilot tours examining the situation of African refugees and asylum seekers in South Tel Aviv and the unrecognized Bedouin villages of the Negev. In the 2012-2013 academic year, our goal is that each academy will take four tours: the Separation Barrier, South Tel Aviv, the unrecognized villages, and the South Hebron Hills. Last year, several groups of students joined RHR staff and members at meetings with Sudanese and Eritrean refugees in South Tel Aviv, hearing firsthand about Teaching Human Rights in Israel’s Pre-Military Academies their experiences in Israel. We also met with a Jewish resident of the Shapira neighborhood, as well as with the director of the Levinsky Garden Library. One student who participated in the tour commented: “The refugee problem is a humanitarian one; the situation is in flux and it is difficult to deport them back to their original countries. They feel like citizens of the land, joining youth groups such as the Scouts, and they learn Hebrew.” Upon meeting with Margaret, one of the social activists from the Shapira neighborhood, the student wrote that, “The situation is insane. There is a lack of preschools, a lack of space, a lack of solutions to the distress of the foreign workers’ children. Educationally, the problem is even more severe – there are not enough schools, and there is no capacity to absorb such a large population. There is no investment in infrastructure, in lighting, and there is no secular elementary school – parents are forced to send their children farther away. Margaret lives on a relatively middle-class street. She contends that the boundary between the building and the street has blurred, and the situation is chaotic and untenable. There are alcohol and drugs everywhere, to the point of public nuisance. The Shapira neighborhood is a microcosm of the whole migration issue. The place feels like a garbage dump.” We also took each pre-military academy on a tour of the Separation Barrier in Jerusalem, contrasting Israeli security concerns with the challenge of upholding the rights of Palestinians residents of East Jerusalem. The tour includes meetings with local Palestinian residents who tell the students first-hand about the challenges that they face; for many young Israelis, this is their first time meeting Palestinians. Students from the Ami-Chai Junior College wrote to Rabbi Nava Hefetz, “We the students at the Ami-Chai Junior College wish to thank youforthetouralongtheseparationbarrierinJerusalem. The junior college students were not familiar with the reality of the fence. The tour enriched our knowledge and opinions. The way in which the content was given over was inspiring. Most people are too closed off to others’ opinions and speak rudely.You conveyed things pleasantly and calmly, and in a very positive way.” In addition to the tours, many of the pre-military academies engage in human rights projects with marginalized communities within Israel. By working within these pre-military academies, Rabbis for Human Rights is helping the next generation of Israeli leaders to change the face of Israel. We have high hopes for these young people, many of whom were involved in the social protests of the Summer of 2011 and continue to work for social change within Israel. We see our former students involved in many organizations and initiatives, and sometimes in key positions as Knesset aides, in the prosecutor’s office, etc. We need many more initiatives like this, because others who do not share our values also have been investing in education for many years quietly and out of the spotlight. RHR’s Human Rights Yeshivas also continued to flourish this past year. In 2011-12, we ran two Human Rights Batei Midrash: one at Hebrew University, operating since 2003, and the other at the Open University in Ra’anana. At the end of the academic year, we decided to close the program in Ra’anana, as the university tends to attract older, more mature students who are returning to study after being in the workforce, while we seek to reach out to Israel’s young generation. In October 2012, we again launched the Human Rights Yeshiva at Hebrew University for 20 students, with Debbie Shoua-Haim, one of RHR’s four rabbinical students/young rabbis/prospective next generation rabbis, appointed as coordinator. Our new program at JezreelValley College in the North, run by Rabbi Kobi Weiss and Rabbi Tlalit Shavit, attracted 80 applicants for just 20 places! Students who participate in the Human Rights Yeshivas receive a stipend and are expected to intern in a human rights or social change organization. While Jezreel Valley College has agreed to pay the stipends for the students, RHR covers this cost at the Hebrew University. In the coming year, we hope that rabbis around the world will help support our Human Rights Yeshivas, including the sponsorship of students. Over the past year, RHR also worked on the English version of our Tractate Independence (RHR’s commentary on Israel’s Declaration of Independence, teaching democracy and human rights as Jewish values in a Talmudic style). For the past year, Debbie Shoua-Haim and long-standing board member Rabbi Amy Klein have worked toward completing this task, focusing on creating a middle school curriculum suitable for Jewish day schools, supplementary schools and youth groups. Several Bay Area Jewish schools have committed to running pilot programs in the 2013- 2014 academic year, and we would be happy to conduct pilots in additional cities. Human Rights Yeshivas 28RHR 2013 29 RHR 2013
  16. 16. Interfaith RHR’s Interfaith work is mainly led by Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann, and we work in a variety of interfaith capacities. We are part of the “Tag Meir” (light tag) coalition of organizations (see below), and we also have several interfaith projects involving young religious students and leaders. I was born and raised in Jerusalem. I’m married to Alon and I live in Jerusalem. Prior to working at RHR, I was trained as a Jewish studies teacher and taught in various Jerusalem high schools. I’m finishing my MA in Bible Studies and am planning to study for the rabbinate over the coming years. My work at RHR (in the Education Department) has opened up my eyes to see more and more wrongs in our society and has opened my heart to feel the suffering of others. I learn from RHR’s more experienced rabbis and employees about justice, morality and fighting for worthy causes. In my work I truly feel that I have a chance to make a difference in the way that young people, high school and university students perceive the importance of human rights, their connection to the Jewish tradition, and the duty we all have to fight for them. Portrait of one of our young rabbis/rabbinical students: Debbie Shoua-Haim Tag Meir RHR organized and participated in several activities of "Tag Meir" (light tag), a coalition of organizations that respond to so-called “Tag Mekhir” (price tag) Jewish terror and violence against Palestinians, refugees and migrants, and others in Israel and the West Bank. In June 2012, we participated in a Tag Meir event at Neve Shalom, at which RHR board member Rabbi Gil Nativ spoke. In September 2012, in response to the desecration and attempted arson of Latrun Monastery, we joined in an interfaith prayer held at the monastery. Earlier, at the end of 2011, RHR organized solidarity visits to the villages of Asira al-Qibliya and al-Burka. In Asira al-Qibliya we visited with a family who had been subjected to many violent attacks by settlers from the nearby outpost of Yitzhar. In addition to words of support and commitment to peace and justice, we donated a barbed-wire fence to help protect them from the ongoing violence from their neighbors. In al-Burka we visited the mosque, which had been subject to arson only a week before. We brought them new books of the Qur’an, replacing those destroyed in the fire and again both sides spoke of their commitment to peace and coexistence. It was most heartening to see many young people participating and the warm reception from our Palestinian hosts. This year marks the third and final year of the first cohort of RHR’s Citizens for Equality program, engaging Jewish and Bedouin women students at Sapir College. The three-year program has been demanding and difficult. At the beginning, the participants had difficulties finding common ground, as they came from vastly different social and religious backgrounds. Students also faced difficulties in continuing the program, with some revolting against the traditions of their own societies, and standing by their resolve to participate in the program, and to improve their own lives and those of their communities. Coordinators Amal El-Sanah and Leah Shakdiel worked hard to create cohesion amongst the participants. At the beginning of 2012, Citizens for Equality participants held a study day in Jaffa, touring the city in order to understand the often opposing Jewish and Arab narratives. We met the rabbi of the Torah-centered settlement group in Jaffa and with Tel Aviv-Jaffa City Councilor Sami Abu Shehadeh. We also toured South Tel Aviv in order to learn more about the plight of the African refugees and their Jewish neighbors. In this third and final year, the students are embarking on small, community-based projects devoted to human rights and social change. The aim of these projects is to encourage leadership skills and create social change in communities in the Negev area. Projects planned include building a park in the presently neglected area of Tel Sheva; using music as a tool for communication between different ethnic and religious groups; and running an advisory center for women who lack the knowledge to apply for social benefits. Although these projects are small in scale, they enable the students to apply their knowledge gained throughout the past two years, and in doing so, empower themselves as they help others. Citizens for Equality 30RHR 2013 31 RHR 2013