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Occupation magazine - Activism

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I need your immediate help to continue my life`s work
From: Arik Ascherman

The beginning of the Olive Tree Campaign in 2002 was when my friend Noaf
Tzuf called to tell me that settlers had been stealing olives for three days
from the village of Yassuf, and nobody was doing anything about it. Noaf had
gone against the trend on the Palestinian street during those first days of
the Second Intifada out of the belief that non-violent Israeli-Palestinian
cooperation was the way to end the Occupation. With him, I was the first
Israeli civilian to visit Jenin after Operation Defensive Shield, and we had
organized many bold activities to protect human rights. I had no idea where
this was heading when we showed up the next day to act as human shields. I
had no idea that we would eventually achieve a major Israeli High Court
victory, and that untold numbers of farmers would gain access to lands
denied to them for years. I only knew that Noaf had watched my back many
times. And, I knew that friends stand with friends.

You have been friends, and we share the faith that Israel must be a place
where everyone is entitled to human rights and dignity. Every human being is
created in the Image of God. I am more accustomed to helping than asking for
help, but this really is my hour of need, If you are in a position to do so,
please strengthen human rights in Israel by helping me continue my life`s
work. We urgently need you to help us meet our $25,000 challenge grant.
Donation information below.

Many of you know that I and two other senior RHR staff people have made the
painful, but hopefully positive for human rights decision to leave RHR. We
are in the process of forming a new, interfaith human rights organization,
`Haqal-United In Defense of Human Rights.` . Adena Ben Reuven was the
longest serving RHR staff person after myself, holding multiple
administrative and development positions. She was RHR`s face to foundations,
and she will keep us organized and grounded. Quamar Mishirqi Assad was the
innovative head of RHR`s Occupied Territories Legal Department. Throughout
civil society and in countless Palestinian villages she is known, respected
and sought after. While I could write endlessly about their talents, what is
most important is that Adena and Quamar share the commitment and passion for
human rights that makes all the difference when you get the emergency call
at 2:00 am, or need to try just a little harder to come up with an out of
the box solution.

We need you in order to continue to fight for Susya and the many additional
villages and farmers that have requested that Quamar continue to represent
them. As Minister Ariel threatens to return to legislation to `settle` the
land claims of the Negev Bedouin and the status of unrecognized villages, we
will work to come up with innovative strategies to sway Israeli public
opinion. Along with partner organizations, Haqal has initiated the
international `Four Villages Campaign` on behalf of Umm Al Kheir and Susya
in the Occupied Territories, as well as Umm Al Khiran and El Araqib in the
Negev. We will also seek to protect the human rights of Jewish Israelis.

Many have asked me whether I will continue to provide a sorely needed
alternative Jewish religious voice firmly rooted in our tradition. Of course
I will. While I am no longer President of Rabbis For Human Rights, I will
always fight for human rights as a rabbi, and pursue our tradition of
tzedek. That is simply who I am. However, Haqal will also give a platform to
Muslim, Christian and humanist voices. Key Muslim and Christian faith
leaders are already on board. With all that divides us, the imperative to
create a society upholding human dignity unites us. Haqal` means `Field` in
Aramaic and Arabic. In the Zohar, Haqal symbolizes, among other things, the
realm where God`s transcendent presence is translated into the law and
justice necessary for living in the world below. Together, we will bring our
traditions down to earth in with the message that the dignity and human
rights of every human being must be safeguarded in our tiny field. `

People have also been asking me `Other than being interfaith, what will be
the difference between RHR and Haqal?`. As Moses says to Pharaoh, `We will
not know with what we will need to serve God until we get there.` (Exodus
10:26). I know what our initial projects are, and what our guiding
principles are. (If you didnt see them in previous posts, they appear again
at the bottom of this post.) However, just as I didn`t know where things
were heading when I went to support my friend Noaf I don`t know and I am not
sure that I ought to know just yet where we are heading. My talent
throughout my career has been in recognizing the needs and the possibilities
when they present themselves. Truthfully, projects picked me more than I
picked them. Nevertheless, as I reflect on our many (although not
sufficient) human rights victories over the years in a very difficult
environment, it worked. I have listed some of them below, just before
Haqal`s goals and founding declaration.

If you believe that our faith based voices, vision, relentless commitment,
talent, experience (47 years between us), proven track record, innovative
and out of the box thinking, refusal to rest on our laurels and ability to
seize opportunities when they present themselves are needed, please `like`
Haqal`s facebook, page and please share this post. Please also send us your
email. We need to create a new mailing list for updates and urgent action
requests. (Send it to be in touch about inviting
me to speak in your community. We can also explore the possibility of a
joint Israeli-Palestinian interfaith presentation. My next trips are
November 11th-December 11th 2016, and May 2017

And, we are in urgent need of immediately available funds.

Currently we have a donor who has pledged up to $25,000 in matching funds
for donations to help us get started. Thank you to those of you who have
already donated. We are over half way. However, even the full $50,000 is
only a small portion of what we need. While we are confident that we will
receive major institutional support, we need immediate support from
individual donors like yourselves to cover our short term needs.
Here`s how to do it:

In the U.S., tax deductable donations of $100 and over can be made by check
as donor advised donations to the New Israel Fund: PO Box 96712; Washington,
DC 20090-6712

Until we are an officially registered NGO, our fellow NGO Kerem Naboth
(Naboth`s Vineyard) has adapted us as a project. Please write `Kerem Naboth-
Haqal project in the memo line. Unfortunately, the NIF does not accept on-
line donations in the U.S.

Donations of under $100 can be transferred directly to Kerem Naboth at
Bank Hapoalim Talpiyot Branch 748 Account 504303, or you can write a check
made out to Kerem Naboth, and send it to Haqal, Antigonos 8, Jerusalem
93303, Israel. In the case of bank transfers, please notify Adena ben Reuven
at so that we will be able to track and properly
designate your contribution.

In Great Britain, please make out tax deductible donations of any amount to
the New Israel Fund Unit 2, Bedford Mews, London N2 9DF or make an on-line
donation at

Please note in the comments box that the funds are for the Haqal project
of Keren Naboth.

From all other countries, please follow the instructions for U.S donations
under $100.

My father z`l once asked me where I saw myself progressing to after RHR. I
had no answer. There was nothing that I wanted more than to lead an Israeli
rabbinic human rights organization. When there were the inevitable
organizational differences in the past, I always put my ego aside. There was
no other place I wanted to be, and the best thing for human rights was to
stay together. Today, I feel that RHR will continue to do great and holy
work without those of us who are leaving. I pass on to worthy hands the
torch I received from Rabbis David Forman z`l, Ben Hollander z`l, Isaac
Newman z`l, Max Warschawski z`l and many others. I strongly urge you to
continue to support RHR.

Given that RHR will continue to do important work without us, the greatest
contribution to human rights that Adena, Quamar and I can make will be
achieved by beginning something new and additional.
This is a sad moment, but also an opportunity for both RHR and I to refresh
and renew ourselves. On a spiritual level, several times in my life the
painful closing of a door was necessary in order to show me the door I
needed to go through.

And, it isn`t about me or Quamar or Adena, or one organization or another..
If I was overcome with emotion the day I announced to RHR that I had decided
to leave, things were put into perspective an hour later when I led a trip
for rabbis from abroad to Umm Al Hiran, the Israeli Bedouin village where
JNF bulldozers are currently working to build Jewish `Hiran` on Umm El
Hiran`s rubble.

We still have a lot of work to do.

Although we are still without a budget, a website, business cards, or a
logo, we are already working. We have posted on facebook the extensive
recent media coverage of our Tisha B`Av ;pilgrimage, the Four Villages
Campaign, etc. Press coverage does not equal success. But, this level of
coverage is an indication of the respect we command and our intent to be a
dynamic force bring the wisdom of our collective traditions together doing
our best to influence both policy and public opinion.
Together, we can create a beautiful and thriving field, with a dignified
place for all.


Arik Asherman

P.S. I might nevertheless be tempted to reminisce with you about the past 21
years but many of you have followed our struggles to prevent administrative
home demolitions; to defend Israeli health care; to act as human shields
protecting Palestinian farmers and eventually winning a landmark High Court
victory giving farmers protected access to long denied lands; saving the
Bustan neighborhood in Silwan, E. Jerusalem; stopping the Israeli Wisconsin
welfare to work program; reversing the attempted destruction of public
housing; helping to freeze the Begin/Prawer plan against the Negev Bedouin;
standing with the Jahalin Bedouin; travelling the world from synagogue to
university to church to mosque; educating young Israelis and rabbinical
students from abroad; serving as a role model for faith based human rights
activism; the arrests and the attacks; and all of the friends and faces and
farmers and home owners and villages I/we have stood with. Click here for
the photo montage I prepared a year ago to mark my 20th

Haqal`s Goals and Founding Declaration


1. Haqal will work to create a society that honors every human being in the
spirit of humanistic morality and religious faith in the holiness of human
life in the eyes of God.

2. Haqal will practically work to implement the human rights principles
embodied in international law.

3. Haqal will educate to increase awareness and commitment to human rights
principles, multiculturalism and the status of women in the State of Israel
and the Occupied Territories.

Founding Declaration

`Haqal` means `Field` in Arabic and Aramaic, and is the root of agriculture`
and `farmer` in Hebrew. The work of `Haqal- United in the Defense of Human
Rights` brings together members of two peoples and three religions working
in one field. The field is a symbol of renewal, a source of income, and a
connection to the land. Amidst the voices claiming that only one population
owns and controls the entire field, we believe that there must and can be
room for all. With all the differences among our members and staff, we are
united by something greater. Bringing together the secular humanistic
commitment to human dignity as an ultimate value and the religious faith in
the holiness of human life because human beings are created in the Image of
God, we are united in our clear recognition that we are obligated to
safeguard the human rights of every human being by virtue of his/her
humanity. Our understanding of human rights is defined by international law,
our faith traditions, and morality as understood in humanistic thought.

As Muslims, Jews, Christians and secular humanists, we believe that human
rights principles light our path in our efforts to live together in our
small field in a manner that honors human dignity and the environment.
We have therefore come together as people of faith and action, knowledgeable
both in our traditions and about ground realities, with considerable
experience and successes in defending human rights. We will workpractically
to prevent human rights violations, and to increase awareness and commitment
to our human obligation to observe and defend human rights. With one foot in
grass-roots organizing and the other amongst decision makers, we will use
legal, educational and activist tools to implement our vision for

Palestinians and Israelis, women and men, Jews, Christians and Muslims, and
the disempowered classes.

At the outset, we will concentrate on two areas in which we have great
experience and knowledge:

1. Legal work stemming and accompanied by field work in order to prevent the
takeover of Palestinian lands in the Occupied Territories, to ensure that
farmers have safe access to their lands, and to prevent administrative home

2. Advocacy and field work to defend the `unrecognized` Bedouin villages in
the Negev, and to safeguard the lands of the Bedouin community.

As soon as we are able, we will add a third, as of yet undefined project,
that will impact on the human rights of all Israelis, Jewish and Arab.
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