Justice, Politics

New program offers Torah study + social action in Nepal

Guest post by Micha Odenheimer
A new Israeli based program called Tevel b’Tzedek (that’s a phrase from the psalms–in English it would translate clumsily into “the Earth–with Justice) has just finished its first 14 week session in Kathmandu Nepal. Tevel b’Tzedek’s program is designed to expand Israeli and Jewish consciousness about globalization, ecology, and the struggle of the poor in “developing” countries, and to give expression to the call for social and economic justice emerging from Jewish texts and traditions. Although in the first session virtually all the participants were Israeli, Tevel b’Tzedek is actively recruiting American Jewish candidates for the next session, which will begin October 14th and run until January 21st.
The first session of Tevel b’Tzedek was a huge success. Besides intensive learning–including 30 hours of Nepali language “ulpan”, each participant interned with a local Nepali organization, working with street children, women’s empowerment, appropriate technology in villages, education in slum schools, and other areas. In addition, Tevel b’Tzedek attracted dozens of Israeli and Jewish travelers to short term volunteer activities–including planting trees to prevent erosion in a squatter settlement by the Bishnumati river and creating a giant picnic for street kids. Studying texts from the Torah and Prophets to Levinas and Walter Benjamin, Tevel also had a rich array of Nepali lecturers–from the commander of the Maoist rebel army (now part of the Nepali government) to the chairman of the Nepali Federation of Indigeneous Peoples.
The program is free–Tevel b’Tzedek provides the housing, food, and instruction–participants pay only for their plane ticket, health insurance and visa. Its open for people from the age of 20 up, with some knowledge of Hebrew a decided advantage. For an application form and more information, you can write to tevelbtzedek at gmail dot com.
See also: Israel21C, “Israelis teach social justice ‘out of their backpacks’ in Nepal”

3 thoughts on “New program offers Torah study + social action in Nepal

  1. I am very surprised that Israelis would need to go to all the way to Nepal to perform this kind of “social justice”, especially after a few years of military service in the occupied territories. Why not apply your “social justice” principles to the people of Gaza and the West Bank? Are there not Palistinian women and children suffering from poverty and lack of basic amenities, such as housing and health services…all this under the direct control of Tsahal and Israeli authority? I find it very ironic that after spending a couple of years imposing the kind of brutal, repressive control Tsahal forces on Palistinian civilians, young Israelis then go off on a soul cleansing vacation and use Nepal’s poor to alleviate their conscience. The words that come to my mind to describe this I will not use; I am too polite. To my mind,”Israel” and “social justice” are contradictory terms.
    Normand Demers
    Monteral, Canada

  2. The removal of any suffering is motion in the right direction. To expect the Israelis to make social justice a priority for people who maintain genocidal manifestos and are constantly launching missiles against them is ridiculous and short sighted. The fact is many Israelis and jews world wide find the human suffering in the Palestinian sectors repugnant. However instead of pointing a finger at the Jews who have a long history of social activism and fighting for justice I would look at the history of governance for the Palestinian people. There condition will never improve until they get governance that is focused on governing rather than the destruction of a neighbor state. The palestinian sectors need economy, opportunity and development. That will never come as long as the Palestinian cause remains in the hands non Palestinian players. I think any program that takes young Israelis our of the role of being the oppressors, that they never chose to be, and puts them into a setting where there efforts are positive and appreciated is important. Many in Israel carry the riffle with reluctance but when called upon to make positive change in the world, they go freely. Not to alleviate guilt but to carry one of the central core values of the jewish people into the world. The notion that through our good actions we can improve the state of the world.

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