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מרכז לקהילה האפריקאית בירושלים

Director's Note - September, 2017

According to the Jewish calendar, this time of year, September, October (Elul, Tishrei) is dedicated to soul searching, repentance and atonement. This is the time of year when Jewish people reflect on their activities and their doings during the year which is coming to an end. It is a time, when plans are made and people decide to better themselves in the New Year. Traditionally, people ask their family and friends for forgiveness if they offended or hurt them in any way, and at the same time everybody wishes themselves and everybody else a happy, successful, healthy and satisfying new year.

It doesn’t take too much soul searching to realize that the Israel political leadership has plenty of atoning to do as well as asking for forgiveness from the African asylum-seeking population in Israel. Firstly, for the horrific way they are been treated since they arrived in this country and secondly for the misinformation they have been feeding the Israel public in regards to the asylum seekers.

“What we’re dealing with is illegal infiltrators, not refugees,” stated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to south Tel Aviv last month. This is the message that Netanyahu, ministers, lawmakers and the Population, Immigration and Border Authority have been repeating for years. This is the message that the Israeli public has been hearing over and over.

I have to ask, how do the authorities even know who is an infiltrator and who is a refugee, before they even check their claims? and how can they declare that these tens of thousands of Eritreans and Sudanese came here only for work, not out of fear for their lives?

I think most of the Israel population are confused by the terminology, who is an infiltrator, who is a migrant, who is an asylum seeker and who is a refugee. To find the answer, I looked up the words in the dictionary and this is what I found:

An infiltrator is a person who secretly becomes part of a group in order to get information or to influence the way the group thinks or behaves.

A migrant is a person who moves from one place to another, especially in order to find work or better living conditions.

An asylum seeker is a person who has left their home country as a political refugee and is seeking asylum in another.

A refugee is a person who has been forced to leave his or her country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.

Between the 38,000 African asylum seekers, there may be some who are migrants or infiltrators, however there is no way of knowing until the authorities check their claims.

What we do know is:

  • Eritrea has one of the harshest dictatorships in the world today, and it is now one of the largest refugee-producing countries. Once a citizen leaves the country, they are considered an enemy of the state and may be imprisoned or tortured upon their return.

  • Sudan is a dictatorial republic, where the president is both the chief of the state and the head of government. He has been accused of war crimes, including genocide. He has sponsored attacks on ethnic groups that destroyed villages, killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions. Israel is an enemy state of Sudan, and it is a punishable crime to enter the state of Israel

  • Ethiopia is also a harsh dictatorship, political opponents and journalists in Ethiopia face harassment, threats and detainment. Security personnel have used excessive force against protesters and tens of thousands have been killed. *

  • The International community has accepted people fleeing from these countries as refugees and it is clear to everyone that they cannot return to their home countries.

Within Israeli society, there is little knowledge and understanding of the issues facing asylum seekers and their rights, people who have fled from persecution, civil wars, genocide and other horrors. Men, women and children who are conducting a daily struggle to overcome memories of the traumatic experiences they have escaped, and who are living in Israel without status or access to basic human rights.

Therefore, in this period of atonement and repentance, I believe that we all have to ask our African refugees for their forgiveness.

*Taken from the web-site of ARDC

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