From Theodore Bikel, quite remarkable

June 1, 2013

In Blog

Dear Friends and Supporters,

This is a critical, defining moment when my father z”l would say that we shouldn’t look to either side of ourselves, but deep inside ourselves.

When I was a college student home on summer break, a Christian friend of mine accompanied me to a local production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” She burst into tears at the end, because of what “Her people” had done to mine. 

Now, I want to burst into tears.  I fully identify with Theodore Bikel, when he says in this short, powerful video clip, “It hurts.”  It hurts to know that our people, the descendents of the Jews expelled from Anatevka, are about to expel some 40,000 Israeli citizens from their homes, demolish their villages, and dispossess them of much of their lands. Bikel, who has played “Tevye” in countless productions, amplifies the Torah’s command, “And you shall not oppress the non-Jew who lives among you, for you know the soul of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9)


We need you to take immediate action,and to ask others to do so.

Click here to send one letter to government ministers

Click here to personalize your letters

This week, the Israeli government submitted to the Knesset legislation (The Praver/Begin Bill) that will make this terrible desecration of God’s Name a reality.  We will create a new “Pale of Settlement.” for Israeli Bedouin.  You can see the map in the video clip.  

The legislative process will begin next week.  We must convince the government to withdraw the bill.

Click here to send one letter to government ministers


Click here to personalize your letters


If we do not stop this legislation, our grandchildren will (or should) be bursting into tears when they contemplate the fact that the State of Israel uprooted and dispossessed 40,000 fellow citizens in the light of day, by official decree. They, and history, will not just judge the State of Israel.  They will judge us.

Even those not troubled by matters of conscience should be asking why we would spend 6-8 billion shekels to force people into townships blighted by poverty, unemployment, crime and drugs.  As our video clip dramatizes, this will be a disaster for all residents of the Negev, Jews as well as Arabs.   We truly have before us “The blessing and the curse.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

I am still betting on my People.  I simply refuse to believe that, if Israelis would understand what they are about to do, that they would go through with it.  I do not believe that you will allow this to happen.

This bill can be stopped, but we are going to have to work hard, even harder than we already have. 

Click here to send one letter to government ministers

Click here to personalize your letters

Our staff has been working extra hours.  RHR and our coalition partners have spent much of these last few weeks speaking to Members of Knesset, and to minister’s aids.  Some say this is already a done deal, or are busy with other pressing matters.  Frankly, because the right wing believes that this bill is “too soft” on the Bedouin, many who know this is wrong simply believe that, in terms of “Realpolitik,”  we must accept the uprooting of 40,000 citizens as the “Best deal the Bedouin are going to get.” 

We need you to help us to help shake our fellow Israelis out of their complacency by holding up a big mirror to Israeli society.  Expelling 40,000 citizens, demolishing their villages and stealing their lands is not just another little necessary political compromise.  Like Joshua and Caleb in this week’s Torah portion, we must say that the common wisdom is not acceptable.

This means numbers. RHR and our international partners generated some 2,500 letters to ministers a few weeks ago.  The Avaaz campaign has generated another several thousand letters to the heads of Knesset party factions.  This has been a good start, but now we are at that critical point where we need the second effort that every athlete knows makes all the difference.  My father would say that we look inside, and ask what is right.  If you click and send a letter, we will generate several thousand letters, and that will be extremely helpful.  If you make that extra, second effort to send a personal request to everybody you know, and to your synagogue/church/mosque or sport club mailing list, we can get to tens of thousands of letters. 

So, what are we asking you to do?  We have a series of actions, some only taking seconds.  Do what you have time for, and then try to do at least one thing more.

  1. Watch our short video, and send it to everybody you know.  Make it go viral!
  2. Send letters to Israeli government ministers, asking them to pull the Praver/Begin Bill, and begin a genuine dialogue with the Bedouin community for the good of all the residents of the Negev.  We have included a sample letter, but if you have time, make it personal. These minister’s need to respectfully hear from you just how anguished and upset you feel about this, and why.  If you are Jewish, speak about the Jewish values you were taught, and about what this moral stain would do to your hopes and dreams for the State of Israel.  Depending on how much time you have, there are several options
    1. Please click here to send one letter to key ministers:  Prime Minister Netanyahu, Treasury Minister Lapid, Welfare Minister Meir Cohen, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Environment Minister Amir Peretz. 
    2. Click here to take our sample letters to each minister, and personalize them.  

Please send us a copy of all responses to  

  1. Although we want to stop this from even coming up for a first reading in the Knesset, join the “Avaaz” letter writing campaign to Knesset party faction heads.  You can use the sample letter to ministers, with a few simple modifications.
  2. Click here for a cover photo which you can use for your facebook page, download the image and then replace your facebook ‘cover photo’ via facebook image upload.  Help us make “40,000” on a black flag the symbol of this struggle!
  3. Please feel free to talk to those in your country responsible for foreign policy, and/or to communicate with the nearest Israeli embassy or consulate.
  4. If you would like more background information:
    1. Background and position paper
    2. FAQ’s Important questions and answers regarding popular misconceptions, and crucial facts.  
    3. Talking Points
    4. English summary of the “Bimkom” alternative master plan. Whether or not we agree with all the details of this plan, it demonstrates that is possible both to preserve the villages and to promote planning and growth for all residents of the Negev
    5. Unofficial Translation of the Begin Plan.  The current legislation is not identical to the plan, but is based on it. 
    6. Detailed analysis of the previous (very similar) draft of the bill by ACRI and Adallah 
    7. Website of the Negev Coexistence Forum/.
    8. To refresh your memory of the expulsion from Anatevka, the movie “Fiddler on the Roof” can be found on you tube. The expulsion scene begins at 2:36:12

Together, we will help Israel pull back from the brink, and make our grandchildren proud.

Shabbat Shalom,



  P.S. Sign up today for RHR’s Jewish Leadership Human Rights Tour October 2nd-9th. You will have the opportunity to wiitness our work first hand, and improve your knowledge of the issues by participating in this unforgettable experience.

 P.S.S  My June Schedule in the U.S.

June 4thMadison  Public Talk at Sha’arei Shamayim, 7:00 PM

June  5thChicago.  Available in Evening

June  6th   Milwaukee.  Please Contact Rabbi Marc Berkson
                  Rabbis’ Meeting 3:30 PM

                  Parlor Meeting/Fundraiser 7:30 PM

June 7th, 9thChicago  Available on 7th before Shabbat .

June 9th   Pittsuburgh. Parlor meeting/Fundraiser 5:00 PM. 
                 Please contact Nancy Bernstein at

June 10th  Pittsburgh.  
                   Lunchtime rabbis’ meeting TBA
                   Temple Rodef Shalom in Pittsburgh, 7:00 PM

June 11th  Washington DC at the New America Foundation, 9:00 AM

June 12th  
                   Lunch time rabbis’ meeting.  Please contact Rabbi David Shneyer
                   Washington DC. Parlor Meeting.  7:30  
                    Please RSVP at Am Kolel: 301-349-2799 or

June 13th  Philadelphia TBA

June 14th-15th   New York  TBA
June 17th             TBA
June 18th             New York.  Evening Parlor Meeting/Fundraiser.  Please contact Ela Greenberg at

 In order to invite an RHR staff or board person to your community, please contact Ela Greenberg at