Israel Religious Action Center
of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism
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Legal Aid Center under Fire - Work Expands Despite Rocket Attacks (1/15/2009)
CONTACT: +972 (2) 625-6261

BEER SHEVA, IL – The Legal Aid Center for Olim (LACO) of the Israel Religious Action Center is expanding its work despite rocket fire from Gaza.

The center provides free legal aid to recent immigrants. The Beer Sheva branch alone serves approximately 2,000 Ethiopians and Russians each year.

LACO has joined a "Hotline for Human Rights in the South" alongside the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Shatil. The groups hope to combine forces to assist with legal issues arising from the war.

LACO legal specialist Baruch Yelma, is the only member of the hotline to speak both Amharic and Tigris, allowing LACO to provide a unique service helping Ethiopian immigrants in the south.

The hotline also provides services in Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian.

Many private businesses have closed in Beer Sheva because of the rocket attacks, but LACO has kept working.

"Some of the municipal authorities and public services are not open and not able to provide the necessary services. During this type of situation it is important to give people information about their rights so they won't be taken advantage of," said LACO director Reut Michaeli.

Michaeli said many new immigrants are poor or don't speak Hebrew and need help getting services.

Attorney Sarah Lewis worked in Beer Sheva last week, where she had to get her clients many of them children or the elderly to bomb shelters when the air raid sirens went off.

"The dash out of the office, across the yard and through the community center to the basement is not so easy," said Lewis, who came to Israel from England. "However, our services are as necessary at the moment as ever and clients continue to arrive," she said.


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