The Human Rights Fellows Program was inaugurated by the Minerva Center in 1999. The Program consists of a comprehensive, year-long interdisciplinary course on human rights in Israeli society, taught at the Hebrew University by the Program's Founding Director, Prof. Daphna Golan, combined with volunteer work of 8-10 hours per week at human rights civil society organizations of the students’ choosing under the Center's supervision. The Program seeks to foster awareness of human rights among university students and educate new generations of human rights scholars and leaders of social change - by introducing them to human rights theories and academic research, and providing them with the opportunity to experience first-hand the role of civil society in democracies, in a structured, supervised setting.
Each year the Minerva Center’s Human Rights Fellows Program accepts 15 Hebrew University undergraduate and graduate students from diverse backgrounds, nationalities and academic disciplines, according to their proven interest in the field of human rights as well as academic excellence. The Program is designed to facilitate meaningful interaction between Arab and Jewish students, and provides a structured opportunity to engage (and de-demonize) the "other" – an opportunity that is unique in the university environment. Indeed, the vast majority of the students in the Program report that this course was the first time they got to know and had substantive conversations – let alone developed personal friendships - with colleagues from the other community.
Each student chooses an organization from a lengthy list of NGOs that asked to take part in the Program and were approved by the Center. Among the organizations chosen by students in recent years: ASSAF - Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel; Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI); Bimkom - Planners for Planning Rights; Bizchut - Center for the Human Rights of People with Disabilities; Coalition to Save Lifta; HaMoked - Center for the Defence of the Individual; Ir Amim - for an equitable and stable Jerusalem with an agreed political future; Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC); Jerusalem African Community Center (JACC); Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance; Jerusalem Rape Crisis Center (ARCCI); Kav La'Oved - The Worker's Hotline; Koach LaOvdim - Democratic Workers’ Organization; Physicians for Human Rights; Public Committee against Torture in Israel; WAC-MAAN – The Workers Advice Center; Yedid – The Association for Community Empowerment; A Wall in Its Midst - building bridges between Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) and non-Haredi student populations in Israel and providing Haredi students with the help they need to succees in academia.
The Human Rights Fellows Program consistently receives rave reviews both from the students and from the organizations at which they volunteer – and has had a powerful cumulative impact over the past two decades on the development of human rights academia and practice in Israel.