Home > Columnists > Arik Ascherman > Torat Tzedek In the midst of the Maelstrom | Rabbi Arik Ascherman

Torat Tzedek In the midst of the Maelstrom | Rabbi Arik Ascherman

Torat Tzedek In the midst of the Maelstrom:


After getting the runaround for months, Torat Tzedek’s Advocate Liora Arzi and I finally met yesterday with representatives of the army’s Civil Administration and Legal Advisor for the Occupied Territories. Our message was simple: The system in place to allow Palestinians to safely access their lands next to settlements is not fulfilling the obligations of Israeli security forces delineated in the 2006 High Court decision I helped win. We are cautiously optimistic that we will now work together to examine and deal with the gaps between the High Court decision and the current reality.

We also discussed in depth several examples highlighting the current problems:

  1. I have been accompanying Ibrahim Salah, and other farmers of Farata since 2002, in their ongoing struggle to protect and enjoy the fruits of their olive grove next to the violent Khavat Gilad settlement. All too often there are profuse demonstrations of sympathy when Palestinian trees are destroyed, the diminished number of trees become the new status quo. Ibrahim used to have 250 trees in his grove and now has less than 230. The real-time video I sent when I thought I saw from afar a tractor doing damage last October was ignored. It turns out that another 22 trees were destroyed. We believe that we have successfully established that the trend of fewer and fewer trees must be reversed, and that new trees will be planted within the month. However, these trees could and should have been planted in December, was it not the obstacles thrown in Ibrahim’s path, and the way we were shunted from office to office, and officer to officer. Without Torat Tzedek’s intervention, the trees would probably never be replaced.
  2. The villagers of Ginsafut haven’t been able to access hundreds of dunams of land next to the Emanuel settlement since 2000. Until Torat Tzedek intervened, their requests were denied, without explanation. A Torat Tzedek brokered tour with army representatives and land owners resulted in a commitment that the farmers would now be able to return to much of their lands. However, it hasn’t happened until it happens. We are pestering both the Israeli and Palestinian liaison units until it does.

As we were preparing for this important meeting, I reflected on how much good we are doing with so few resources, and how much more we could do with full staffing. Please click here to get us closer to that goal.


As part of the efforts of the Public Housing Forum to generate discussion about the issue during this election campaign, Torat Tzedek is coordinating efforts to get op-ed’s written by Forum members into the press. We are also a part of efforts to attend events sponsored by the various parties, to raise the issue of public housing.


Torat Tzedek is establishing partnerships to implement a program to teach asylum seekers language and job skills. We are also seeking to launch a program through which Israeli families will “adopt” families of asylum seekers.


Torat Tzedek has just obtained a letter from former President Jimmy Carter, who on behalf of the Sabagh family facing eviction in Sheikh Jarakh. President Carter visited Sheikh Jarakh several years ago. The noose is tightening around the neck of the Sabagh family. Unfortunately, just as we learned in Khan Al Akhmar, international concern is all too often our only hope to save endangered families and communities. Although Israeli law allows Jews to reclaim property owned (in this case, allegedly owned) by Jews before 1948, but prohibits non-Jews from doing so, Torat Tzedek is exploring the possibility of a court case asking to reclaim two homes in Jaffa and lands near Yavneh We were part of an evening in which neighbors and Israeli activists accompanied the family to view their former homes.

The Sumarin family of Silwan faces eviction by the Karen Kayemet/Jewish National Fund. Torat Tzedek has been advising first-year Reform rabbinical and cantorial students, who have been engaging the Reform Movement’s leadership on this issue because the Reform Movement is part of the governing coalition of the KKL. In 2011 we got the KKL/JNF to freeze eviction plans, and we hope to do so again.


After learning more than I ever thought I would ever know about building homes and about olive trees, I am now getting educated about sheep and goats. Along with Torat Tzedek’s partners in Ta’ayush, and wonderful Jewish young people from abroad volunteering with Torat Tzedek through Achvat Amim, I spend day after day protecting shepherds from settler violence and army expulsion. Although much of the dialogue is in Hebrew, below are two recent facebook live video clips with some interspersed English and Hebrew narration. While soldiers do eventually succeed in getting many of the shepherds to move back (not all), they would have been pushed much further away had we not intervened. In yesterday’s meeting with the army mentioned above, we also raised the issue of daily temporary closure orders being improperly used to expel shepherds. Along with Yesh Din, we are making slow but sure progress in lodging police complaints to stop the settler practice of causing major financial loss by bringing their flocks into areas cultivated by Bedouin shepherds to feed their flocks. This week we gathered the necessary photos and affidavits for one such complaint and documented additional occurrences.

In the near future, we will be meeting with fellow human rights organizations to look for a way to translate these particular battles into systematic change.

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