Rabbi Arik W. Ascherman
From Protest to Resistance in IsraelDear Chevra,
I am unutterably proud and happy to report having just received from Rabbis for Human Rights a report of a successful action to actually resist the blockade/ closure / siege of a Palestinian village, totally cut off from surrounding contact by the Israeli army.
RHR is the only Israeli organization involving Reconstructionist, Reform, Orthodox, & Conservative rabbis.
On Sunday May 6, from 1-4 p.m. at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue- 30 West 68th Street, NYC , Rabbis for Human Rights will become co-recipients with me of the Abraham Joshua Heschel Award from the Jewish Peace Fellowship.
I will be honored to stand with them, and hope as many as possible of you will join us. I hope we will be able to connect this with an action in support of the OLIVE TREES FOR PEACE campaign. Rabbi Arik Ascherman, exec of RHR, wrote as follows, below:
Dear Friends and Supporters,
WE DID IT! No, I don't just mean that we succeeded in clearing a road for the 3,000 besieged residents of Rantis. We did clear the road, but it may be sealed again by tomorrow. What we did was that we moved from protest to resistance. We signaled to all that we will not be passive.
If this was a one time activity than it was no more than a nice statement. However, I believe that this was the beginning of an ongoing commitment by people saying that even in wartime there are red lines which can't be crossed if we are to preserve our humanity.
It was incredible. In Jerusalem we were delayed because we needed another bus. Some 200 people from a wide spectrum of peace and human rights organizations came together.
The border patrol was waiting there to tell us that the area was a closed military area. We ignored them.
They took our tools. We continued to work with our bare hands.
They tried to arrest some of us. We laid down (still digging).
Four of us were arrested and we were told that they would be released if we left by 1:30. We said that we wouldn't make a deal.
We left at 2:15, with our equipment and the four activists, after having cleared a passable road and established a connection with the residents of Rantis.
Our tradition tells us that the reward for performing a mitzvah is the doing of an additional mitzvah. We have already been asked to remove roadblocks in Salfit, in the Bethlehem area and BEEN ASKED TO PARTICIPATE IN A PALESTINIAN - ISRAELI ACTION ON SUNDAY AT 12:00 WHICH WILL HAVE FOUR MARCHES FROM NABLUS, BEITH FORIK, BEIT DAHAN AND SALEM GATHERING AT THE BEIT FORIK CROSSROADS TO OPEN THE ROAD.
Rantis is a village of 3,000 souls. There are dire medical problems because the village is totally cut off and there is no resident doctor. If you recall the story of the woman who gave birth at a checkpoint, she was from Rantis. There is 100% unemployment among the 500 adult males. They are also prevented from tending to their fields. Seven university students have had to drop the semester because they couldn't get to classes.
Here are the previous emails about this sent out in Isael:
...I have asked in the past few days what we will say to the younger generation when they asked what we were doing when...
I hope that tomorrow will be a day giving us an answer we can be proud of. It is not a light matter to violate the laws of one's country, especially when it is in the defense of the human rights of those who are attacking us.
I can only repeat again that, as excruciatingly difficult as it is, we must separate between our anger and our fear directed against the Palestinians and the importance of upholding the Jewish values which sustain us.
Friday is approaching and the time has come to move from protest to resistance. Some of us feel that we have been doing as much as we can for 6 months and may asking what more can we do. We must find the inner strength to match the escalation on the part of the government with an escalation of our own. Others of us have been confused or have even blamed the Palestinians for the current crisis.
We must realize that even in times of warfare there are lines that can not be crossed. The siege is not saving lives, it is threatening lives.
Furthermore, our Jewish tradition is clear, we can not endanger the lives of entire innocent populations through starvation, denial of medical care, etc., even in the name of our security. In the words of the Talmud, is our blood redder than theirs? If trenches are being dug, we must fill them in. If roadblocks are being put up, we must tear them down. We can not stand idly by while our neighbor bleeds.
Rabbi Arik W. Ascherman
Rabbis For Human Right
Tel. 972 2 563-7731
Fax: 972 2 566-2815
Mobile: 972 50 607034
The Rabbis For Human Rights Olive Tree Campaign is continuing. We continue to collect funds for:
- Replanting trees.
- Supporting families whose trees have been uprooted/cut down for the 6-10 years necessary for a new tree to give fruit or for a cut tree to regenerate. (This is what Palestinians have been telling us is most important.) The financial loss to a family is NIS 300 ($75) per tree per year.
- Non-tree related humanitarian relief (particularly for food).
- Purchasing olive oil from families prevented from doing so by the closure. (NIS 350 for a 17 liter jerrycan, NIS 25/liter)
Checks for olive oil can be made out to "Naftali Raz" Donations to the Olive Tree Campaign or for humanitarian aid, in addition to and not instead of annual general donations to RHR, can be sent directly to RHR, Yitzhak Elhanan 2 Jerusalem 92141 Israel, Bank HaPoalim branch 782, acct. #153380, or as donor advised tax deductible donations to the New Israel Fund. The Shefa Fund, 8459 Ridge Avenue, 2nd floor; Philadelphia, PA 19128-2119; 215-483-4004 www.shefafund.org is also collecting tax deductible donations for this endeavor. Please inform us of all bank transfers and donations via NIF or the Shefa Fund, and their intended use, so that the money will be allocated properly.
"Even if you make war against a city, do not destroy its trees." (Deut 20:19)
Plant OLIVE TREES FOR PEACE. See
"She is a Tree of Life, for those who hold her close a Tree of Life, for shalom."
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Director
The Shalom Center