Religion & Beliefs

Sudanese Refugees in Israel

You probably already know all about those Ethiopians that Israel airlifted in in 1984 and 1991. Called Beta Israel or Falashas, they were Jews living in Ethiopia, isolated from the rest of world Jewry who had a vague knowledge of … Read More

By / March 22, 2007

You probably already know all about those Ethiopians that Israel airlifted in in 1984 and 1991. Called Beta Israel or Falashas, they were Jews living in Ethiopia, isolated from the rest of world Jewry who had a vague knowledge of their existence, but little interest in them. In 1975 Israel officially recognized them as Jews, and in 1984, Operation Moses began, transporting them to Israel from Sudan, where many had fled due to persecution and widespread famine. Operation Solomon followed in 1991. Today there are over 100,000 Ethiopian Jews in Israel, and if I had a nickel for every time I heard a Zionist lecturer talk about how Israel is the only country to ever airlift Africans out of Africa in a time of famine I would be able to pay off all my student loans. I am all about the Ethiopian community in Israel (I’m particularly in favor of the Ethiopian Hebrew U security guard named Shlomo marrying me and making many babies with me. Yum.), and I think it’s great that Israel got them out of a famine stricken country, but if that’s really a top priority of the country, shouldn’t Israel be somewhat more tolerant of Sudanese refugees who’ve escaped into Israel? There are only a handful of refugees from Darfur who have managed to get into Israel (by way of Egypt), but they’ve been jailed, or stuck on army bases. Some have been placed under house arrest on kibbutzim while the Israeli government tries to find countries where they can send them in coordination with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Why can’t they stay in Israel? Sudan is considered an enemy country, so Sudanese refugees aren’t eligible for asylum in the Holy Land. I read stuff like this and I want to break something. I can see why Israel might not have the wherewithal to send troops to Darfur, what with Lebanon and the PA still major concerns, but there’s no excuse for not allowing refugees who’ve walked hundreds of miles and escaped one of the greatest atrocities of our time to at least hang out somewhere without being arrested and severely restricted. Not standing by idly while your brother’s blood is spilled is a major tenet of Jewish law, and it’s great to know that Jewish causes have been at the forefront of activism in favor intervention in Darfur, but this complete lack of compassion for victims in Israel makes me crazy. I have no practical advice today. Just serious despair.