400+ Rabbis Urge Israeli Govt: Free Rabbi Ascherman, Stop Home Demolitions

Rabbis for Human Rights & Shalom Center, 1/11/2004

400+ Rabbis Urge Israeli Govt: Free Rabbi Ascherman, Stop Home Demolition

Further information: Call Rabbi Brian Walt, Rabbis for Human Rights, 508/ 696-1880

**Check out First Report of Trial**
More than 400 rabbis from North America and Europe have in eight days signed a letter of protest to the Israeli government against the arrest of Rabbi Arik Ascherman, executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights, and against the policy of demolishing Palestinian homes.

Rabbi Ascherman stood nonviolently in front of Israeli Army bulldozers that were about to (and did) demolish two Palestinian homes. The homes were slated for destruction because they lacked permits to add rooms - permits that are routinely given to Jewish families but almost never to Palestinians. Thousands of Palestinian homes have been destroyed - inside the areas that the Knesset has declared part of Israel as well as in many other Palestinian areas in the West Bank and Gaza.

Among the rabbis who have signed the letter - beside the steering committee of Rabbis for Human Rights/ North America, which includes me — are such leaders of various strands of Jewish life as Rabbis Brad Artson, Pamela Baugh, Phyllis Berman, Rachel Cowan, Elliot Dorff, Amy Eilberg, Arthur Green, Shaya Isenberg, Nancy Flam, Peter Knobel, Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer, Arthur Hertzberg, Richard Hirsh, Steve Jacobs, Sharon Kleinbaum, Michael Lerner, Mordechai Liebling, Paul Menitoff, Marcia Prager, Jeff Roth, David Saperstein, Sid Schwarz, Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Daniel Siegel, Hanna tiferet Siegel, Warren G. Stone, Michael Strassfeld, David Teutsch, and Sheila Peltz Weinberg.

A fuller list of signers is below, after the letter. (New names are coming in hourly; as of January 15, the numbers are above 400 and include many prominent rabbis from Europe. The list below was compiled earlier.)

Rabbis for Human Rights/ North America circulated the letter to North American and European rabbis. RHR/ NA members delivered it in person on Monday January 12 to the Israeli embassy in Washington and the Israeli consulate in New York.

That day is the yohrzeit (death-anniversary) of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, co-worker with Dr. Martin Luther King against racism and against the US War in Vietnam. RHR in Israel grew partly out of a search for rabbis there who would, like Heschel, unite Torah to healing of the world.

1) If you agree with the letter, you might call the Israeli embassy in Washington DC at 202/364-5500, ext. 4. There you can express your thoughts and feelings to the Ambassador or his representative.

2) You may also want to share the letter with your friend and your congregation and urge those who feel so moved to express their concern by writing or calling the Israeli consul in your community, by writing to the Jewish or general press, by calling local US representatives, or by writing RHR at office@rhr-na.org to list your name a people in support of the rabbis' letter. You may also want to educate your congregation about the home demolition policy.

Shalom, Rabbi Arthur Waskow


List of Recipients: Attorney General Minister of Justice Mayor of Jerusalem Others.....

Dear Prime Minister Sharon,

We Rabbis, leaders of our communities, longtime Zionists and supporters of Israel, are writing to express our concern and our support for our colleague, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, who is facing trial on January 14 in Jerusalem for trying to prevent the demolition of 2 Palestinian homes.

We have two concerns. Our first concern is about the decision to prosecute our colleague who has devoted his life to Israel and to the Zionist vision of building and sustaining a Jewish State that exemplifies the values of compassion and justice. Rabbi Ascherman ha dedicated his career to protecting the human rights of both Israelis and Palestinians and hi Zionist and Jewish commitments inspire thousands of Jews in Israel and abroad. We fear that the decision to prosecute him is an attempt to silence his voice. For us and for many Jews in our communitie the work of Rabbi for Human Rights represents the Jewish moral conscience. We express our love and commitment for Israel by supporting that work. To silence it is to push us away from the Israel we love.

Our second concern is about the home demolition policy itself. The home that were demolished were not demolished for any security reason. None of the people in these homes engaged in violence or harboring terrorists. They were demolished because of a violation of zoning regulations in the context where it is almost impossible for Palestinian families in those parts of the West Bank under Israeli civilian control or in Jerusalem to legally obtain building permits. B'tselem, the Israeli human right organization, report that since 1987, literally thousands of homes have been built for Jews in these same areas, many receiving permits retroactively. Since 1987 2,500 Palestinian houses on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem have been demolished leaving more than 16,000 Palestinian homeless.

Home demolitions constitute an especially disturbing human rights issue. A sense of home is an essential part of our humanity; homelessness has alway been considered a human tragedy. Jews, because of our own history, are especially conscious of the issue of home, and Zionism can be said to be the movement to find a home for a people so often deprived of our homes.

The destruction of a home can only be experienced as a violation by it inhabitants. Something fundamental to one's identity ha been removed. To be deprived of one's home is to be naked in the world. More, it can mean that one is unable to locate oneself in the world, to feel that one has a place. Without a home, wherever one walks in the world, a sense of tragedy and pain, of emptiness and shame accompanies you.

Any society must proceed with absolute caution before it destroys a home. That is a basic claim of justice. It i why Rabbis for Human Rights has been so involved with issues of home demolition since 1997. It is why Rabbi Ascherman stood with the Maswadeh family in Beit Hanina when the bulldozers came, leaving Sufian and Sana Maswadeh, their children, Mr Maswadeh's sick mother, as well as his brother's entire family homeless, within a matter of minutes. It is why he stood with the family of Ahmed Mousa Dari in Issawiyah, when the bulldozers came to demolish their home. It is why he iscurrently standing trial.

These prosecutions will never lead to the kind of Israel we want and desire: a Jewish State that celebrates the prophetic voice which has animated our people for centuries, and which has given such vitality to the Zionist movement. True democracies protect minority rights, and cherish and listen to their critics, to those who stand with the poor and powerless.

We urge the government to exercise wisdom in thi matter: to drop the case against Rabbi Ascherman and to rescind its policy of home demolitions. We believe that the word of the prophets still speaks to us: ultimately, Zion will only be redeemed through justice and those who return to her through acts of righteousness.


Rabbis Scott Aaron, Jon Adland, Ron Aigen, David Ariel-Joel, Benjamin Arnold, Melanie Aron, Brad Artson, Craig Axler, Larry Bach, Andrew N. Bachman, David Dunn Bauer, Pamela Baugh, Leonard I. Beerman, Martin Beifield, Marc J. Belgrad, Haim Dov Beliak, Yehuda Howard Berger, Phyllis Berman, Leila Gal Berner, Rebecca Birk, Aaron B. Bisno, Herman J. Blumberg, Elizabeth Bolton, Stephen Booth-Nadav, Neal I Borovitz, Barbara Borts, Charles Briskin, Herbert Brockman, PhD, Caryn Broitman, Lester Bronstein, Marcelo Bronstein, Ari Cartun, Carl Choper, Debrah Cohen, Ayelet Cohen, Hillel Cohen, Michael M. Cohen, Neil Comess-Daniels, David J. Cooper, Mychal Copeland, Sigma Faye Coran, Rachel Cowan, Dan Danson, Harry K Danziger, Justin David, Lavey Yitzchak Derby, Shoshanah Devorah, Bruce Diamond, James S. Diamond, Lucy H.F. Dinner, Fred Scherlinder Dobb, Robert Dobrusin, Michael Dolgin, Art Donsky , Elliot Dorff, William Dreskin, Ellen Dreyfus, Alice Dubinsky, Laurence Edwards, Jeffrey Eisenstat, Ed Elkin, Lawrence A. Englander, Daniel Epstein, Rachel Esserman, Ted Falcon, Ph.D., S. Joan Glazer Farber, David Feder, Dena A. Feingold, Eddie Feld, Fern Feldman, Susan Fendrick, Natan Fenner, Michael Fessler, Nancy Flam, Ellen Flax, Randy Fleisher, Jeff Foust, Russel Fox, Wayne Franklin, Bob Freedman, Jonathan B. Freirich, Michael Friedland, Dayle Friedman, Joan S. Friedman, John Friedman, Stephen Fuchs, Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer, Roy Furman, Ruth M. Gais, Joyce Galaski, Joseph H. Gelberman, Laura Geller, Jonathan H. Gerard, Neil Gillman, Arnold S. Gluck, Robert J. Gluck, Shai Gluskin, Neal Gold, Dan Goldblatt, Irwin N. Goldenberg, Rachel Goldenberg, Andrea Goldstein, Jerrold Goldstein, Paul Golomb, Debora S. Gordon, Sam Gordon, Lynn Gottlieb, Roberto Graetz, Joshua Levine - Grater, Arthur Green, Steven Greenberg, Susan Grossman, Susan Gulack, Abraham Havivi, Arthur Hertzberg, Richard Hirsh, Linda Holtzman, Margaret Holub, Yitzhak Husbands-Hankin, Fran Ickovits, Shirley Idelson, Shaya Isenberg, Marc Israel, Margery Jacobs, Richard Jacobs, Steve Jacobs, Jennifer Jaech, Paul J. Joseph, Dan Judson, Julie Greenberg, Debra Newman Kamin, Patricia Karlin-Neumann, Debra Kassoff, Alan J. Katz, Joanna Katz, Alvan Kaunfer, Leora Kaye, Jason Kimelman-Block, Ralph P. Kingsley, Paul J. Kipnes, Jason Klein, Sharon Kleinbaum, Marc Kline, Myriam Klotz, Peter Knobel, Doug Kohn, Neil Kominsky, Ira Korinow, Emily Faust Korzenik, Douglas E. Krantz, Matthew Kraus, Leonard S. Kravitz, Charles A. Kroloff, Alan LaPayover, Barry Leff, Michael Lerner, Joshua Lesser, Mark Levin, Joshua Levine-Grater, Sue E. Levy, Yael Levy, Mordechai Liebling, Rebecca Lillian, Ellen Lippman, Janet B. Liss, Jane Rachel Litman, Richard Litvak, Alan Lovins, Shaul Magid, Harry Manhoff, Natan Margalit, Marc Margolius, Bonnie Margulis, Dow Marmur, Mecklenburger, Paul Menitoff, Shira Milgrom, David Mivasair, Margaret Moers Weinig, Tracy Nathan, David Nelson, Sue Oren, Shaul Osadchey, Joel Oseran, Sandy Roth Parian, Shoshana M. Perry, Aaron M. Petuchowski, Bruce J. Pfeffer, Marcia Prager, Marsha J. Pik-Nathan, Ph.D., Steven Pik- Nathan, Brian Nevins-Goldman, RRA, Eliot J. Baskin, D. Min., Gary S. Fink, D.Min., Moshe ben Asher, Norman T. Roman, Vered L. Harris, RJE, Yakov Rabkin, Arnold Rachlis, Michael Remson, Alexi Roberts, Liz Rolle, Neal Rose, James B. Rosenberg, Aaron Rosenberg, John Rosove, Donald Rossoff, Jeff Roth, Jonathan Rubenstein, Elisheva Sachs, Richard B Safran, Douglas B Sagal, Murray Saltzman, Samuel M. Stahl, Emeritus, Neil Sandler, David Saperstein, Marna Sapsowitz, Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Arthur L. Schwartz, Barry L. Schwartz, Sid Schwarz, Judith Seid, Bruce Bromberg Seltzer, Miriam Senturia, Gerry Serotta, Judy Shanks, Dan Shevitz, David Shneyer, Daniel I. Siegel, Hanna Tiferet Siegel, Richard Simon, Scott Slarskey, Jonathan P. Slater, Amy Joy Small, Joel Soffin, Rav A. Soloff, Scott Sperling, Aaron Spiegel, Toba Spitzer, Jacob J. Staub, Peter Stein, David Steinberg, David Stern, George Stern, Warren G. Stone, Michael Strassfeld, Alana Suskin, Monique Susskind Goldberg, Michael Z. P. Tayvah, Elliott Tepperman, Terry R. Bard, , David Teutsch, Betsy Torop, Michael Torop, Lawrence Troster, Gordon Tucker, Andrew Vogel, Brian Walt, Arthur Waskow, Pamela Wax, Michael A. Weinberg, Sheila Peltz Weinberg, Eitan Weiner-Kaplow, Simcha Weintraub, Michael A. White, Arnold Jacob Wolf, Bridget Wynne, Paul Yedwab, Shawn Israel Zevit, Michael Ziegler, Michael Zimmerman, Misha Zinkow, Meryam Zislovich, Henry A. Zoob.