South Sudanese Students Booted From Israeli Community After Residents Claim They'll Bring 'Rape, Murder and Break-ins'
African students are here as part of a government program to study agriculture. Residents warned of ‘rape, murder and break-ins,’ demanded to remove them and blocked their entry. The head of the regional council complied
Agriculture students from South Sudan were housed in the community of Avshalom, near Israel’s borders with Egypt and the Gaza Strip, will be housed elsewhere after local residents objected. The students have been studying in Israel as part of a government program under the auspices of the Ashkelon Academic College.
Some of the residents of the small community in Eshkol Regional Council have harassed some of the students and demanded they be moved, and the head of the regional council, Gad Yarkoni, also requested that they be moved.
WhatsApp messages from a group of local residents obtained by Haaretz include statements such as: “There is a very serious problem and we need to deal with it urgently. Otherwise, remember very well what I’m saying, the day is not far away that there will be rape, murder and break-ins in the community.” Another resident wrote: “As far as I’m concerned, they are animals, rapists, human trash. Their place is not here.”
After local residents discovered that the students form South Sudan were living in their community, some threatened to hold protests until they were removed. Last week, four residents closed the gate to Avshalom and prevented the students form entering for an hour and a half. Only when the commander of the police station in the nearby city of Ofakim ordered the gate opened and the students be allowed to enter the community – and if necessary accompanied by the police – did the residents open the gate.
“We tried to convince the residents that [the students] are okay, but nothing helped,” the head of the program at Ashkelon Academic College told Haaretz. “Except for having them leave, nothing satisfied them.”
After the protests, the regional college decided to move the students to a different community within the regional council, to Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha. “The bottom line is that we are already moving them because it is a shame that they experience such an unpleasant feeling,” said the director of external study programs at the college, Dikla Abutbul. “There was a great deal of criticism from the residents. My representative went there to explain but the only thing that calmed them down was when we said they will move. There's no point trying to make this sound better than it is, the bottom line is that the way this was handled was wrong and disrespectful.”