Since 2003, an estimated 10,000 non-Jewish immigrants from various African countries have crossed into Israel. Some 600 refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan have been granted temporary resident status to be renewed every year, though not official refugee status. Another 2,000 refugees from the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia have been granted temporary resident status on humanitarian grounds.
In 2007, Israel deported 48 refugees back to Egypt. In August 2008 the Israel Defense Forces deported at least another 91 African asylum seekers at the border. The current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has called for a patrolled fence to be built on Israel’s border with Egypt to keep out illegal immigrants.
Circles of Empathy:
- As an American, do you ever think about the war and unrest in Africa? How much do you care about injustice taking place far from home, to people you do not know or share very much with?
- Every year on Pesach we say at the Seder “each day and age, one and all must see himself, as though having escaped Egypt.” Why do you think this passage is part of the seder?
- How do you think Alma Zohar might answer this question?
- Do you agree with Zohar’s interpretation?
- Do you think this song would have a place at your seder night? Might you choose to sing it at your seder?
- Do you think we should be helping African refugees because it is our responsibility as human beings, or because we remember that as Jews, we too were once refugees?
- Does tapping into our Jewish history of slavery and exile make our desire to help those in need stronger? Should it?
- Should the obligation of the State of Israel to refugees be any different from that of the United States?