A few weeks ago, I posted a story about my trip to Florida that I took with Rabbis For Human Rights-North America. I am the vice-chair of the board of RHR-NA and I am proud of my association with an organization which addresses issues of human rights here in the United States. However, RHR-NA has another role: to publicize, support and encourage the work of Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel.
RHR was founded in 1988 and calls itself the “Rabbinic voice of conscience in Israel”. RHR is comprised of Rabbis from different streams of Judaism and from different political perspectives who agree on one major issue: that Israel’s actions within its borders and in the West Bank should be based on Jewish values of ethics, compassion and respect for all people. The members of RHR are Zionists and proudly so. As residents in Israel, they are on the front lines, raise their children in Israel’s cities and towns and do their part in defending the security of the State. However, the Rabbis of RHR and their supporters do more: they fight for the needy and the disenfranchised within Israel, they establish “human rights yeshivot” to study issues of human rights as they affect the military and other institutions. And, they reach out to the Palestinians living under Israeli control in the West Bank to help address some of their difficulties: replanting olive trees which have been uprooted by settlers, rebuilding homes which have been damaged or demolished and establishing relationships which can be a paradigm for relations between Israeli Jews and Palestinians.
I am proud of the work that these individuals do. It takes courage and compassion and it is so important for the Jewish state. While all of us who care about Israel, all of us who love Israel, should be committed to Israel’s security, we need to care about more than just security issues. A Jewish state should reflect the values of our Jewish faith and Rabbis should take the lead in voicing concerns in this area.
If you would like to read more about Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel , you can go to their website at rhr.org.il/eng/ I urge you to do so and to become more acquainted with this work. Not everyone will agree with each position taken or every action taken by RHR but think about what it means when religious leaders within Israel take a stand for equality, for coexistence, for compassion and for hope for the future. As Jews we know that life is more than about physical survival, it is about the quality of our lives as well. This is why I am so proud of the work RHR does. Israel will survive and will flourish not only because of the courage of those who defend her borders and protect her people but also by the courage of those who fight for the values and the ideals of our people and our faith.
Yishar Kochichem to the Rabbis and supporters of RHR in Israel. May you go from strength to strength.