Coalition of Israeli Academics, Spiritual and Cultural Leaders Call on President Isaac Herzog to Intervene on Behalf of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh)

August 11, 2023

To the Honorable President of the State of Israel Mr. Isaac Herzog

Dear Mr. President,

Isaac Herzog, President of Israel

Requesting your assistance to end a severe humanitarian crisis and prevent a
humanitarian disaster

We, the undersigned, academics, and spiritual and cultural leaders from a variety of fields, turn to you out of our grave concern regarding the severe humanitarian crisis that poses a clear and present danger to 120,000 men, women and children in Nagorno Karabakh (referred to by residents as the Republic of Artsakh). The State of Israel enjoys close ties with Azerbaijan, the state which is responsible for this crisis, and has the ability to resolve it. These ties obligate the State of Israel to take a clear stand, and not to stand idly by.

Eight months ago (on December 12, 2022), government-supported Azerbaijani activists laid siege to the only road that connects Armenia to the Armenian enclave of Nagorno Karabakh. In April, the Azerbaijani army itself established a military checkpoint on the road, despite the fact that according to the terms of the cease-fire they had signed, the responsibility to maintain access to this area was entrusted to the Russian forces. The ongoing siege has prevented critical supplies to residents for months, and last week, many organizations and international bodies, including a number of UN experts, as well as Anthony Blinken, the United States Secretary of State, warned of the real danger to the lives of residents of the area should the siege continue, and expressed the urgent need that Azerbaijan allow humanitarian assistance to enter.

Azerbaijan’s blockade of the road is a violation of the Russian-brokered November 2020 ceasefire that it signed with Armenia, ending fighting that placed most of the surrounding territory under Azerbaijani control. This agreement had left a single road, the Lachin corridor, that connected Armenia with the Armenian enclave in Nagorno Karabakh, and its closing caused the residents of the area tremendous suffering. Should the siege continue, masses of people are likely to die of starvation and disease.

Israel’s relationship with Azerbaijan has significantly improved in recent times, as expressed by the opening of an Azerbaijani embassy in Tel Aviv, and the stream of visits by many Israeli dignitaries, including by the President himself. This warming of the relationship is thanks in no small part to the significant defense support that Israel provides to Azerbaijan, which was a deciding factor in the hostilities in the fall of 2020.

While Azerbaijan acts in defiance of the ceasefire agreement that it signed at the end of those hostilities, thus creating a severe humanitarian crisis, the aid that we provided means that we have a special responsibility not to be a bystander, and also gives us an important opportunity to have a positive impact. We cannot remain silent, especially in light of our historic and multilayered connection the Armenian people. Both Jewish history and Armenian history can attest to the political excuses that come to justify inaction and apathy in the face of lives that hang in the balance.

Has Israel achieved what it has just so that it can provide the same excuses as we heard from other nations, Mr. President?

Our history and our identity as a nation committed to the Jewish value of humanity created in the image of God obligates you, as it obligates all of us, to act.

Therefore, we implore you, Mr. President, to make a personal appeal to your counterparts in Azerbaijan and demand their immediate removal of the blockade of the Lachin corridor. This is not a request to take a side in the ongoing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, but simply a humanitarian plea to save lives that are in danger, and to allow basic freedom of movement and the provision of sufficient supplies in order to live. We would be happy, if you are willing, to meet with you to present the dire situation in Nagorno Karabakh in greater detail.

Respectfully yours,


Ora Ahimeir, author

Yaakov Ahimeir, journalist

Prof. Reuven Amitai ,Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, Hebrew University Atty.

Nadav Argov, Combat Genocide Association

Prof. em. Yair Auron ,expert on genocide, The Open University of Israel

Dr. Rina Avner, Archaeologist

Rabbi Ruth Baidach, Rabbis for Human Rights

Avi Buskila, entrepreneur, and social activist

Prof. em. Israel W. Charny, Hebrew University, executive director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem and editor of the Encyclopedia of Genocide

Avi Dabush, executive director, Rabbis for Human Rights Nathan Daniel, Faculty of Humanities, Hebrew University Ruth Doron, ‘We Cannot Stand Silent’

Dr. Shlomi Efrati ,Researcher at Hebrew University and at KU Leuven

Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum ,founder of ZION: An Eretz Israeli Congregation in Jerusalem; and Vice President of the Masorti Rabbinical Assembly

Rabbi Avidan Freedman ,co-founder ,Yanshoof organization

Yisca Harani, lecturer, consultant and expert on Christianity

Pesach Hauspeter, Combat Genocide Association

Prof. Benjamin Z. Kedar, recipient of the Israel Prize in History; former vice-
president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities

Motke Keshet, Classical and Armenian Studies

Yoav Loeff, lecturer in Armenian History, Hebrew University

Ilia Mazia, musician

Rabbi Michael Melchior, former Minister and Member of Knesset, founder and president of Meitarim educational network, founder and chair, Mosaica

Tanyah Murkes, CEO, Society for International Development, SID-Israel

Suzanna Papian, actress

Dr .Yakir Paz, The departments of Talmud and Classics, The Hebrew University

Yana Pevzner, journalist

Sari Raz-Biron, journalist

Prof. em. Elihu Richter ,School of Public Health, Hebrew University

Naama Ringel, architect and activist

Rabbi David Rosen, International Director, Interreligious Affairs, AJC

Leah Shakdiel ,educator and activist

Prof. Donna Shalev, Classical Studies, Hebrew University

Rabbi Dana Sharon ,Rabbis for Human Rights

Dr. Yoav Shemer-Kunz, Political Science

Dr. Oded Steinberg ,International Relations and European Studies, Hebrew University

Prof. em. Michael E. Stone, Armenian Studies and Comparative Religion, Hebrew University

Aurit Stone-Yaacov, biologist

Yaron Weiss, expert on the countries of the Caucasus

Roi Ziv, PhD Student, Hebrew University