March is the beginning of spring in Israel, Easter for the Christian religions and Pesach for the Jews. March also marks International Women’s Day, a celebration all over the world and in some countries, like Eritrea, a National Holiday.
Last year at this time, when the women of the Eritrean community decided to mark and celebrate the international Women’s Day, the threat of deportation was already in the air, but less real and less tangible than it is today.
This year in view of the imminent threat of deportation, it wasn’t at all certain that the community would bother celebrating this holiday. However, in spite of this impending threat looming over their heads, the Jerusalem asylum-seeking community, led by Sernai Dori and Brahne Hagos, two dominant community leaders, decideded to arrange a bigger than ever celebration for the whole community. In addition to the entire African community in Jerusalem, invitations went out to all their many friends and supporters in the city.
I was privileged to be among the invited guests and was able to take part in this amazing event. About 300 people, from the asylum-seeking community together with many friends and supporters enjoyed a fun-filled day. The women were beautiful in their traditional dress and beautiful, shiny evening gowns, the food, prepared by the women, was plentiful and very tasty, the music was great, and the entertainment, which included a fashion show, was spectacular!
It was, for me, a tremendous experience, and I am overwhelmed by the ability to put all the hardship away, and enjoy a day that is about community, about tradition and about friendship.
Once again, this remarkable community proved and demonstrated its resilience and determination to separate the threats and anxieties relating to the deportation from their need to maintain a routine that is as normal as possible. This is one of the amazing characteristics of this community; to continually meet the challenges and hardships they face, every day, with dignity and tremendous strength.
Passover marks the liberation of the Israelites slaves in Egypt, their redemption from their Egyptian oppressor and the beginning of their 40-year journey in the desert on their way to materialize their freedom in their homeland. This is the time when Jews throughout the world read the Hagada and retell the story of their journey from slavery to freedom. This is the time therefore to think of the tests the Jewish people were challenged with throughout our history. This is the time for us, Israelis, to remind ourselves, our children and our future generations what it took to finally make it to independence and to being free in our own prosperous country. Moreover, this is the time of the year when we should all be reminded what it was like to be abused, to be singled-out from society, to be discriminated against and persecuted by law.
This is the time to remind ourselves that Israel declared itself to be different, because of the tragic experiences of the Jewish people. We intended to respect the freedom of all our citizens, regardless of religion, color and race. This is the time to act in accordance with our beliefs and desires to live in a free world, with equal rights. This is the time to be seriously considering changing the policies and attitudes towards the asylum-seekers, seeking refuge in our country. This is a time to STOP THE DEPORTATION and allow these extraordinary people to finally have a place to rest their heads and live in peace!
I would like to end by wishing all our Christian friends, happy Easter and our Jewish friend, happy Passover.