St. Yves of Brittany, after whom the Society is named, was an aristocrat and Doctor of Law in the thirteenth century, whose reputation as a defender and benefactor of the poor is famous. He is widely held to be the patron of lawyers. His life of legal struggle and service to the poor and marginalized as a model led also to our motto "I am my brother's keeper".
"I am my brother's keeper"
Our motto is related to the old testament’s story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4). After Cain had killed Abel, God asks Cain “Where is Abel, your brother?”, and Cain answers, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4.9). In place of Cain we answer, yes, we are our brother’s keeper, irrespective of race, color, gender or religion.
From one case to a broad range of services...
The first case of St. Yves was a High Court of Israel Petition on the eve of the Second Gulf War in 1991. It aimed to compel the Israeli Ministry of Defense to expand the distribution of gas masks to the Arab Palestinian population of East Jerusalem. Israel, fearing a chemical attack from Iraq, had begun to distribute gas masks to its citizens and the settlers in the Westbank and Gaza, but didn’t distribute masks to the Palestinian population in Jerusalem, the Westbank or Gaza. Yet, as occupying government Israel has direct responsibility for the Palestinian people. St. Yves won the case, but in the first place there were enough gas masks for only 10% of the Palestinian population in the occupied territories.
The success of the gas masks case was followed by the defence of the forced relocation of the Jahaleen Bedouin adjacent to the illegal West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim. Many West Bank Palestinians took hope from the long drawn out non violent legal struggle and came to St. Yves with their similar issues. These included mainly orders of land confiscations and demolitions of homes and agricultural infrastructure which where occasioned to make way for the accelerated construction of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
Over the years St. Yves' work grew from land confiscations and home demolitions in Jerusalem and the West Bank to include issues of freedom of movement, family unification, violence by security forces and settlers, Jerusalem residency issues and National Insurance matters including the welfare of children, the aged and the infirm.
The aim is, to improve the lives of as many people as possible...
The work of St. Yves is work on behalf of individuals and reflective of the lawyer-client-relationship of personal professional service. Nevertheless often similar issues arise in so many individual cases that an action on behalf of a class of people is necessary. St. Yves undertakes such class actions when they are demanded. For example many of St. Yves' clients were subject to the abysmal and inhuman conditions forced upon the Palestinian people at the East Jerusalem Ministry of Interior and the District Commissioner's Compound at Bethlehem that these state institutions became the subject of St. Yves' Petitions to the High Court of Israel. This resulted in the rebuilding of both of those buildings/complexes and an overhaul of the means by which people were given service. A similar action was initiated against the National Insurance Institute which controls all social benefits to citizens of the State as well as to the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem.
Although St. Yves' primary thrust is in Legal Advocacy before the courts, it also provides, through its Legal and Para-Legal staff, community based information and awareness raising lectures with the aim of empowering the local community to know how to demand its rights. Through National and International Lobby and Advocacy we are able to bring the plight of the poor and marginalized to the attention of communities around the world in an effort to bring pressure for peace.