To deliberately subvert divinely inspired ideas to absolve the inhumanity of imprisoning children, or to glean political advantage to enact even more draconian measures against the most vulnerable, crosses some kind of unseen line . . . .
Many have marveled at the citing of sacred texts to support even the most heinous of thoughts and acts. Others still have struggled to understand the mind and heart that could do such damage to holy writ. And people of faith take unique exception to the mangling of words that bind them to God.
And so, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions doubled down on rooting an immigration policy of family separation in the holy justification of biblical texts, faith communities across the ideological spectrum united in opposition to a perversion that defied even our most jaded expectations for this administration’s chutzpah.
The outrage goes beyond the gall of employing a text as cover for a policy that embodies the very inverse of its meaning, or omitting the myriad expressions of compassion and welcome that represent the fullness of the Bible.
As people of faith, we stand in solidarity with all the migrants and asylum-seekers who come to our borders, fleeing violence or simply seeking a better life for their families. We protest the inhumane separation of children from their parents. We urge our government to allow victims of domestic violence and gang violence to seek asylum in this country. This will be an opportunity to gather together for prayer, and to bring our prayerful witness to the streets of our city.
Israel has struggled with what to do with those already in the country, alternating between plans to jail and deport them and allowing them to work in menial jobs.
The Israeli government informed the High Court of Justice Tuesday it had scrapped its controversial plan to deport tens of thousands of African migrants from the country, after Israeli authorities failed to cement an emigration deal with a third country.
“At this stage there is no possibility of implementing involuntary deportations to a third country. Therefore, as of April 17, 2018, [the state] has ceased to hold hearings as part of the deportation policy, and no more deportation decisions will be made at this time,” the state said.
The admission marked a dramatic setback for the government in its years-long attempts to expel the asylum-seekers, most of them from Eritrea or Sudan, and a triumph for activists who appealed to the court against the government plans.
After promising to “get rid of them all” . . . the big mystery is why he made the decision in the first place to extend legal status to at least half of the 36,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Israel.
In the face of all of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s past capitulations, it was the most disgraceful, the most transparent. In comparison to all his reversals, it was the quickest, the most humiliating. The man had already taught us a chapter on zigzags and back-and-forths — in the story of the Western Wall egalitarian prayer space and the metal detectors at the Temple Mount, for example — but this time he outdid himself, in both speed and flexibility. A contortionist could only dream of having such a liquid backbone.
What we saw in the past 24 hours is a parody of a prime minister and a tragedy to the state he heads. There’s never been anything like it: The Israeli government signs an agreement with an international organization over an issue that is at the heart of the public debate and about which the government has a firm position. The prime minister declaims to his nation the details of the deal in a jubilant news briefing in the midst of the intermediate days of Passover, and within hours he backtracks.
A person who suffered force labor, violence, rape and torture in his own country — is he not a refugee?
Someone who was persecuted only because of her religion and ethnic background — is she not a refugee?
A person forced to flee his home only because of his skin color — is he not a refugee?
Someone whose village was burned and her family members killed in front of her eyes — is she not a refugee?
And he who survived a genocide — is he not a refugee?
If these people are not considered refugees in Israel, than who is?
My name is Monim Harun, an asylum seeker from Sudan. I was born in a small village nested between mountains and forests, where we lived together as one big family. At a young age I was separated from my family and the people I loved most in the world when the militia forces attacked our village. They went through the village killing every man and boy in sight, but by a miracle I survived. My mother wanted me to live in a safer place and have the opportunity to study, so in 2001, at the age of 12, she sent me to the other side of the country, to the Blue Nile region of the Republic of Sudan.
When I left the village it felt bittersweet — leaving behind my mother and sisters, and the people I loved. But I knew that in doing so, I would be able to acquire new skills that would help me rebuild my community on my return. In the Blue Nile region I completed elementary through high school, and was accepted to Blue Nile University. I spent three years there studying toward a degree in electrical engineering — five years are required for the program. During those years I joined a student organization that fights against the rule of radical Islam in Sudan, and calls for a democratic, secular and liberal system of government. My involvement in social and political advocacy wound up placing my life in great danger, all the more so because my Fur ethnicity is one against which the Sudanese government has been perpetrating genocide.
In 2015 . . . less than two percent of Sudanese asylum requests had even received a government response. Not a single one had been approved. Of the more than 2,400 Eritreans who requested asylum, the Israeli government granted it to four.
Last week, Isabel Kershner, The New York Times’ estimable Israel correspondent, wrote an article about the Netanyahu government’s decision to either expel Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to third countries or indefinitely lock them up. The article ran under the headline, “Israel Moves to Expel Africans. Critics Say That’s Not Jewish.”
“Like much of the Western world, Israel is grappling with how to balance its right to protect its borders and prevent illegal immigration with showing compassion and humanity,” writes Kershner. “But the government’s decision has struck a particular chord here and among Jews abroad since the modern state of Israel has served as a safe haven for Jews fleeing persecution.”
Kershner goes on to say that many Jews believe the government’s decision violates “Jewish values.” She suggests that “Even secular Israelis have taken to citing biblical verses like Leviticus 19:34: ‘The stranger who resides among you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.’”
“I don’t want to go to Rwanda. I’m from Eritrea, and I don’t want to return to Eritrea. I’m going to jail, without fear.”
— Dabsai, a 47-year-old Eritrean resident of Netanya
The Population, Immigration and Border Authority will begin issuing deportation notices on Sunday to asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan who are not held in the Holot detention facility.
In the first stage the notices will be issued to men without children who come to renew their residence visa. Citizens of Eritrea and Sudan are required to renew their visas every two months at the authority’s office in Bnei Brak. They will receive their last two-month visa, along with a letter stating that during this period they are expected to leave the country, otherwise they will be forbidden to work and can expect to be incarcerated indefinitely. Authority personnel will suggest that they leave for either Rwanda or their native countries. . . .
Netanyahu isn’t bashful. . . . For him and his allies, the world sinned against Jews, and Israel’s obligation stops at giving refuge to Jews.
“I don’t have a visa,” Emanuel Yemani told me.
He spoke in Hebrew on the phone. After his third prison term for political offenses, Yemani had fled from Eritrea, traveling north through Sudan and Egypt. He crossed the Sinai Peninsula — the same ancient route used by Hebrew slaves delivered from Egypt — and entered Israel ten years ago.
It has been enough time for him to learn the language — but not enough to gain a firm legal status. Like nearly 40,000 other refugees from Eritrea and Sudan in Israel, Yemani has lived on a short-term visa that he must renew every couple of months at the Interior Ministry. The last time he did so, he brought a document that had been requested. The ministry official refused to take it, and Yemani recounted the exchange:
“No need,” said the official. “Soon we’ll deport all of you, and you’ll sit under a tree, open your mouth and wait for a banana to fall, like a monkey.”
“But I’m a human being, not a monkey,” Yemani answered.
“Don’t you see yourselves, that you look like monkeys?” the official answered.