Rabbis for Human Rights, is the only rabbinic voice of conscience in Israel, defending human rights of marginalized communities within Israel and the Palestinian Territories. The organization was founded in 1988, and today has over 100 members-all Israelis and all ordained Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Renewal rabbis as well as some rabbinical students.
Our work expresses the view that as Jews, we are obligated to protest against every injustice enacted against any other person, a view based on the belief that man was created in God's image. We believe that it is our obligation to inform the Israeli public about human rights violations, and that it is our role to pressure the State institutions to fix these injustices.
We at Rabbis for Human Rights derive our authority from two main sources- from the humanistic Jewish tradition and from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Parallel to our efforts to prevent violations of human rights, Rabbis for Human Rights brings a humanistic understanding of Jewish sources to the Israeli public discourse. In a time in which a nationalist and isolationist understanding of Jewish tradition is heard frequently and loudly, Rabbis for Human Rights give expression to the traditional Jewish responsibility for the safety and welfare of the stranger, the different and the weak, the convert, the widow and the orphan.
Some programs include:
Raising Awareness among Young People about Human Rights and Judaism: RHR runs various educational programs, designed to expose young Israelis to human rights within the Jewish tradition, and to encourage activism. We currently teach in 12 pre-military academy programs throughout the country; run two "Yeshiva" style study programs for university students, combined with volunteer work in a human rights organization; and engage in interfaith dialogue and cooperation among Israeli Bedouin and Jewish women students at Sapir College in the Negev. We also continue to work to introduce our Talmud-like commentary on Israel's Declaration of Independence into the Israeli public schools.
Promoting Economic Justice: Since 2003, RHR has been advancing the rights of the unemployed and underemployed. At the heart of our work is the "Lev Hadera Rights Center, which offers legal counseling and advice specifically to the unemployed and low-income populations who turn to the Center to learn their rights regarding economic and employment rights. The Center handles more than 200 cases and referrals each year, primarily from women and increasingly from Palestinian-Israelis. The Center also facilitates a group of Jewish and Arab women, who turned to the center, who meet to discuss rights-based issues. In addition, RHR uses lobbying tools to encourage the Israeli Knesset to protect the rights of the unemployed and under-employed.
"Olive Tree Campaign" - Ensuring the Rights of Palestinian Farmers to Land Access For the past decade, RHR has been working to ensure agricultural access of Palestinian farmers in the northern West Bank, where settler violence, vandalism, trespassing, and land expropriation are endemic. Through daily communication with grassroots activists and a regular presence in the field, RHR monitors these issues, contends with violent attacks and intimidation of farmers and shepherds; and now, more than ever before, launches legal redress for these violations. RHR also coordinates with security forces to ensure that they protect Palestinian farmers while they access their land, as stipulated in the 2006 High Court ruling, and brings volunteers to serve as "human shields" and to accompany farmers.
Protecting Palestinian Land Rights in the Occupied Territories: RHR's legal staff counters settler violence and land takeovers, land expropriations, discriminatory zoning measures and home demolitions, and monitor implementation of past and future court rulings that protect Palestinian's rights. Working mainly in South Hebron Hills, we have helped 100 families in this area, and have saved hundreds of acres of lands for Palestinian farmers.