The Reform Movement in the US, representing over a million American Jews, has joined the 65 Rabbis of British communities and Jewish-American actor Theodor Bikel, sending a letter to the Prime Minister urging him not to further the Praver/Begin plan. A week ago the British Rabbis, representing all the streams of Judaism, sent an especially harsh letter to Netanyahu through the Israeli ambassador to Britain. The wave demonstrates the distress in solidarity with the policies of the government of Israel.
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On Monday 6 June, Reform Movement Action Center director Rabbi David Saperstein sent a letter to Netanyahu urging him not to further the Praver/Begin plan, which is expected to cause the expulsion of 30-40,000 Bedouin from their villages and the destruction of those villages. The letter was sent in the name of the Reform Movement in the US, which represents 900 synagogues and 1.3 million Reform Jews. “We urge you to suspend the plan currently under discussion and allow for greater exploration of its implications and impact, particularly the displacement of existing Bedouin communities.” The letter is the fruit of Rabbis for Human Rights efforts on behalf of the Negev Bedouin and their rights. The full letter, in English, can be seen here.
Watch: Thousands march against the Praver/Begin Plan
Last week the 65 British Rabbis of all Jewish streams expressed their opposition to the plan: “Dear Prime Minister: We write to you to protest in the harshest terms any continuation of the legislation to rearrange Bedouin settlement of the Negev,” their letter to Netanyahu began. From an ethical point of view the Rabbis say, “A Jewish, democratic State may not discriminate against any minority, especially not a poor, disempowered minority.” That letter was also the result of activities by British Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights. For further details about the British letter.
Even beforehand, Jewish-American actor Theodore Bikel addressed the Jewish community in Israel, calling for the cancelation of the Praver/Begin plan. Bikel is most famous for his role as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof; his voice can be heard in the RHR video clip, describing the stark similarities between the plan to concentrate the Bedouin in a specific area of the Negev and the forced concentration of Jews in 19th-century Russia into the Pale of Settlement, against the backdrop of the scene in which the Jews of Anatevka are given the deportation order in the film. For the clip.
Rabbis for Human Rights: the wave of opposition from Jews worldwide to the Praver plan attests to the break many Jews feel with Israel’s image as reflected in Israeli government policy toward the Bedouin. Jews all over the world have expressed a clear moral message: A Jewsi state, a state that represents our identity, does not act thus toward a disempowered minority in its midst; it does not behave thus toward the stranger living in our midst.