Arik Ascherman

Arik Ascherman
Born Arik Ascherman
Erie, Pennsylvania
Known for Co-founder, Rabbis for Human Rights

Arik Ascherman (born 1959) is an American-born Israeli Reform rabbi, and co-founder[1] and Director of Special Projects for Rabbis for Human Rights, an Israeli organization for which he previously served as Executive Director.[2][3] As a human rights and political activist,[4] he has spearheaded protests to defend Palestinians against Israeli settler violence.[5] He appears in the 2010 documentary Israel vs Israel.[6] In 2016 he left Rabbis for Human Rights.


Ascherman grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania and attended Harvard University. Though he planned to attend rabbinical seminary immediately after graduation, he was not accepted, and instead joined Interns for Peace, a coexistence project which sent him to the Israeli Arab city of Tamra and the Israeli Jewish city of Kiryat Ata to work from 1981 to 1983.[7] After that, he returned to the United States to complete his rabbinical training.[1] He immigrated to Israel in 1994.[5] In 1988 he co-founded Rabbis for Human Rights.[8] He attributes his interest in activism on behalf of Palestinians to the rabbinic concept of tikkun olam (lit. "repairing the world"), referring to universal human rights and social justice.[7]

Ascherman actively takes the side of Palestinian citizens and farmers against Israeli police and settlers. In an incident in 2002, for example, he intervened in the questioning of two Muslim women representatives of the International Women's Peace Service in the Palestinian village of Haris, and accompanied them when they were taken to an Israeli police station and accused of obstructing police activities and incitement to riot after they questioned Israeli soldiers who had fired live ammunition into the village. Ascherman translated documents for them and drove them back to Jerusalem after their release eight hours later.[9]

Ascherman and Rabbis for Human Rights are best known for dispatching volunteers to act as human shields to protect the Palestinian olive harvest from vandalism and assault by settlers living on nearby land; every year, clashes are reported between settlers and Palestinian farmers.[10] In 2008, the volunteer effort encompassed 40 villages.[11] The effort was launched in 2002 when a Palestinian peace activist solicited RHR's help to protect olive pickers against attacks by settlers living near the village of Yanun.[12]

According to Nicholas Kristof, writing in The New York Times, Ascherman’s car has been stoned by Palestinian youths and he has been arrested and beaten up by Israeli security forces and settlers.[5] In 2004 to 2005 he was tried for civil disobedience[7] after obstructing a bulldozer as it was demolishing houses in East Jerusalem.[1] In March 2005, he was convicted and sentenced to 120 hours of community service.[4][12] He was arrested again in March 2008 for "inciting Palestinians to oppose the police" near the ongoing archaeological dig in the City of David.[13]

He casts his position as a moral and religious one rather than a political one, as he stated at his 2005 trial:

"That moral inheritance tells us that the policy of home demolition is immoral. It may be technically legal according to Israeli law narrowly interpreted. However, not everything that is legal is just. The policy is certainly illegal according to international law and tramples on the Torah, which I as a rabbi am sworn to uphold. The Torah commands us to love those different to us, not to have double standards and to have one law for all".[14]


In 2009 he was co-recipient (with Alice Shalvi) of the Leibowitz Prize, presented by the Yesh Gvul.[15]

In 2011 he was co-recipient (with Rabbi Ehud Bandel, a co-founder of Rabbis for Human Rights) of the Gandhi Peace Award, "for their nonviolent methods of resolving human rights abuses in Israel and the Occupied Territories".[16]

Personal life

Ascherman is married to Einat Ramon, the first Israeli-born woman ordained as a Conservative rabbi.[12][17] They and their two children reside in Jerusalem.[18]


  1. 1 2 3 Macintyre, Donald (1 November 2010). "A rabbi struggles to protect his Palestinian flock". The Independent. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  2. "Israeli rabbi faces trial for opposing demolition of Palestinian homes". Daily Times (Pakistan). 14 January 2004. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  3. "Profile: Arik W. Ascherman" (in Hebrew). Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  4. 1 2 Lynfield, Ben (17 December 2010). "In Israel, a rabbi who argues that anti-Arab measures are un-Jewish". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  5. 1 2 3 Kristof, Nicholas D. (7 July 2010). "In Israel, the Noble vs. The Ugly". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  6. "Israel vs Israel (2010)". Internet Movie Database. 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  7. 1 2 3 Langer-Gal, Anat (29 November 2009). "Interview with Rabbi Arik Ascherman". Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  8. Szajkowski, Bogdan (2004). Revolutionary and Dissident Movements of the World. John Harper Pub. p. 240. ISBN 0-9543811-2-2.
  9. Bullock, Katherine (2005). Muslim Women Activists in North America: Speaking for ourselves. University of Texas Press. pp. 4648. ISBN 0-292-70666-9.
  10. Lazaroff, Tovah (10 October 2011). "Settlers, Palestinian farmers collide in Itamar". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
  11. "Settlers clash with rabbis guarding Palestinian olive harvest near Hebron". Reuters. 3 October 2008. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
  12. 1 2 3 McGreal, Chris (25 March 2005). "The rabbi who pricks Israel's conscience: Zionism is moral, not military, says activist convicted of blocking West Bank bulldozers". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  13. Rapoport, Meron (13 March 2008). "Police arrest rabbi for 'inciting Palestinians' in East Jerusalem: Arik Ascherman, head of Rabbis for Human Rights, arrested for encouraging opposition to excavations". Haaretz. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
  14. Adam, Heribert; Moodley, Kogila (2005). Seeking Mandela: Peacemaking between Israelis and Palestinians. UCL Press. p. 151. ISBN 1-84472-129-9.
  15. "Awarding ceremony of the Leibowitz Prize to Alice Shalvi & Arik Ascherman - a Yesh Gvul initiative". Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  16. Bloom, Joshua (22 April 2011). "Gandhi Peace Award Honors RHR's Rabbi Arik Ascherman & Rabbi Ehud Bandel". Rabbis for Human Rights. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  17. Miles, William F. S. (2007). Zion in the Desert: American Jews in Israel's Reform kibbutzim. SUNY Press. p. 140. ISBN 0-7914-7103-9.
  18. Goldstein, Elyse; Diamant, Anita (2008). New Jewish Feminism: Probing the past, forging the future. Jewish Lights Publishing. p. 218. ISBN 1-58023-359-7.

External links

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