Some may take a look at Rabbis for Human Rights' work in Beit Shean, Hadera, or even in the Palestinian olive groves, and ask whether the work we do is really human rights, or social work. However, RHR's major policy victories such as the game changing 2006 High Court victory ensuring Palestinian agricultural access, or the defeat of the Israeli Wisconsin Plan in 2010, came about because years of grassroots work prepared our hearts and minds to for the Knesset, the press and the High Court.
The public housing work RHR began in Beit Shean and in the tent encampments led to the Public Housing Forum. The Forum created a caucus of some 20 coalition and opposition MK's. Our experiences in Beit Shean informed the legislative proposals we wrote to restore Israel's deteriorating commitment to ensuring that every Israeli has a decent and safe roof over their head.
Nevertheless, RHR continues in Beit Shean. We keep our fingers on the pulse, and identify additional policy issues and grass roots partners. We are reminded just why we are going to the Knesset, and "One who saves a single life, it is as if one has saved an entire world."
One legislative proposal would create a public body, including tenants, to hold the public housing companies accountable. Our work had taught us that many people live in unacceptable conditions until an outside seeing eye breaks the conspiracy of silence.
For example, "Yehuda," was living in a public apartment without water or electricity, and literally black with rot from floor to ceiling. We were told that Moshe had refused repairs. RHR's Rabbi Kobi Weiss finally arranged for Moshe, the officials, and Channel 10 news to meet at the apartment. Magically, repairs began, but we may need to apply more pressure because they haven't been completed.