Arik Ascherman

You Must Not Remain Indifferent: Ki Titzeh

Two settlers, one of them armed, invading the Rashash Bedouin encampment (image courtesy of author)

You must not remain indifferent (Deuteronomy 22:3)

When you enter another man’s field of standing grain, you may pluck ears with your hand; but you must not put a sickle to your neighbor’s grain. (Deuiteronomy 23:26)

You shall not subvert the rights of the non-Jew living among you , or the fatherless.   You shall not take a widow’s garment in pawn. (Deuteronomy 24:17)

For the past few weeks I have had to content myself with a wort on the weekly Torah portion, and have not had time to write a dvar Torah here. That is because of most of my days and nights, other than Shabbat itself, have been spent in Rashash, Wadi Siq, Al Baqa and Qabun.

One family remains in Al Baqa after the rest of the community fled because of the outpost set up on their access road in late June. The Civil Administration supposedly removed it on June 29th and July 18th, but settlers rebuilt it each time within an hour or two. We need to be with that one family.

An outpost set up in February has caused some 5-6 families to flee Wadi Seeq. Day and night the settlers and their flock came up to their homes. They can also be seen around the school, striking fear in the children. The flock ate everything the shepherds and the landowners from Ramoun planted, causing huge financial damage. One day the Civil Administration bulldozers came to evacuate, but then turned around. Did the C.A. receive a phone call from Bezalel Smotrich? Although there is a better access road to the outpost, settlers make a point of driving on the road through the Bedouin homes day and night. Sometimes they get out to walk around the homes. The donkey of one family disappeared in the middle of the night. One night we found a smoldering campfire where the Bedouin had spotted individuals watching them…

We need to be in Wadi Seeq.

We no longer need to be in Qabun. Like Eyn Samia before them, they are gone.  Although settlers, sometime with soldiers, would come into their homes and upend everything in the middle of the night, they were afraid to ask us to stay with them until it was basically too late. Settlers had told them that it would be much worse for them if they saw us with them. How long can people stand harassment day and night? In June an outpost was set up preventing them from accessing their grazing lands. The herd of the outpost feasted on the grains their owners hadn’t planted, and enjoyed the water from the cistern that others had built.

We accompanied the shepherds of Rashash day after day 2019-2020. However, the threats that the shepherds not be seen with us and the increasingly aggressive tactics by the settlers caused them to give up and graze elsewhere. However, the appetite of the scheduled to be legalized Malachei HaShalom outpost was not satisfied. Today there are outposts of the outpost. Despite the attempts of the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority to stop them, the Binyamin Council has taken over the Eyn Rashash spring.The Bedouin can no longer access it. The residents say they have lost the battle for grazing lands, and are buying twice the amount of feed. Now they are fighting for their families, as Malakhei Shalom’s flock regularly grazes next to their homes. Settlers come in to their encampment by foot, by car, by horse.  On Monday I attempted to block an armed settler, who eventually entered one of the tents, as soldiers watched. On Thursday two of us laid down underneath the wheels of the all terrain vehicle attempting to enter and terrorize. Thankfully, both the officer in charge of the area and a police officer finally told the settlers on Thursday that they must stay out of the encampment. We see how long that lasts.

So yes, we are in Rashash 24/7.

Our presence is only a triage, as we look for legal solutions, appeal to the international community, and appeal to the public, “You must not remain indifferent.”

The literal translation of “do not subvert the rights” might be seen as referring only to legal matters, because the word is “mishpat.” However, the New JPS Translation rights is in line with the teaching of Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch that this cannot possibly be limited just to legal matters, but must refer to all rights.

Increasing press exposure, including a Hebrew piece on Israeli television (first half on Burqa and in second half I bring Uri Levy to Rashash and Eyn Samia) and the article that appeared today in Times of Israel is an important step forward, but we must do more.

The international community is beginning to take notice, and have even come to take a look, and published statistics, but words and tours aren’t enough. In the cases of Khan Al Akhmar and Susya, the international community was only effective in preventing these communities from being destroyed after doing much more.

I ask each and every one who reads this, “Will you remain indifferent?” Will you stay at home and say how terrible these actions are? Or, will you join us in providing a protective presence, or by lobbying your government? Will we beat our breasts on Yom Kippur and mourn the communities that are no more, or will we be able to say to the One in Whose Image we are all created that we refused to be indifferent? What can you do to ensure that the one remaining family in Al Baqa will not join the rest of their exiled community, and that Wadi Seeq and Rashash will not join Ras Al Tin and Qabun and Eyn Samia?

Shabbat Shalom

About the Author
Rabbi Arik Ascherman is the founder and director of the Israeli human rights organization "Torat Tzedek-Torah of Justice." Previously, he led "Rabbis For Human Rights" for 21 years. Rabbi Ascherman is a sought after lecturer, has received numerous prizes for his human rights work and has been featured in several documentary films, including the 2010 "Israel vs Israel." He and "Torat Tzedek" received the Rabbi David J. Forman Memorial Fund's Human Rights Prize fore 5779. Rabbi Ascherman is recognized as a role model for faith based human rights activism.
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