Director's Note -- September, 2018
With the arrival of September and Tishrey
Again, this season of the year: the days are shortening and announcing the end of the summer, and here again is September with its autumn promises. Again this season brings with it the Hebrew month of Elul, the month of forgiveness, that closes a year and follows with the "Yamim Norayim" (the high holidays)and the Jewish the New Year.
We all have whom to ask for forgiveness and those we need to apologize to. All of us, personally and individually as well as a society, deaf to the feelings and needs of those who are less privileged. The reality speaks for itself: we live in a society which is controlled by heartless and bureaucratic institutions with appalling and mean attitude to the people which we, at the African Community Center in Jerusalem are connected to: the asylum seekers from Eretria, Ethiopia and Sudan. These are unrecognized and unseen people, without a formal identity, without a status, with no rights. The coming Jewish New Year that represents a new beginning, new hopes and human compassions offers hardly any of this to the asylum seekers community in Jerusalem, indeed in Israel.
The asylum seekers we meet and get to know and appreciate, do not have difficult and hard to meet demands. They are not pushers. They don't present Israeli officials with any pre-conditions to be met and fulfilled to their satisfaction. They are only partially organized. They are quiet, innocent and lack any form of aggressiveness. They are people who were forced to flee their countries, from the dark regimes which endangered their lives. They're asylum seekers, refugees, victims of persecution, violence, physical and mental abuses and traumas. As a matter of fact, what they ask for adds up to very little: recognition of the undisputed fact that they are human-beings, children, men and women, fathers and mothers, a community with basic needs that the Israeli society is required to provide them with: to live without fear of deportation, to enable their children education and health services, to allow them to make a living without taxing them chunks of their income and to provide them with relative security in their daily lives and allowing them to preserve their self-respect and the need to live with dignity.
We shouldn't delude ourselves: the assistance and moral support that we at JACC and other organizations like us around the country do not manage meet all their growing needs. Only a change in the government's policy with a more enlightened approach, a more human one, and yes- a more Jewish and moral one- will bring about a change in the lives of the asylum seekers. Make no mistake, what we do is important, essential and effective. The activity of our many volunteers, wonderful, committed and devoted men and women, who astonish me every day by their dedication and commitment do trigger a "turning point" in the attitude toward the asylum seeking community.
With September and Tishrey approaching, I ask for the forgiveness of the asylum seekers in the city, who we still haven’t reached. I apologize to those who do enjoy some of our programs, for all the things we still cannot do. I want you to know that not only in the eyes of JACC’s Board, our professional staff and the dozens of volunteers, but in the eyes of many Israelis, asylum seekers are perceived definitely as wonderful, diligent and special people. The asylum seekers are not transparent in the eyes of many Israelis, who see and recognize them, identify their distress and sympathize with their ongoing struggle and suffering.
At this time of the year which brings together an ending and a beginning, despair and hope - I wish the asylum seekers, our volunteers, our generous supporters and friends, a better year to come, a year in which we will see a positive change in the status and rights of the asylum seekers. We at JACC meet the community in our various programs and meet the children in their special programs and frameworks. When we look into the eyes of these beautiful children, we see their joy, their sweetness, their innocence and this is what enables us to hope and believe that somewhere a better future awaits all of us.