In Our Dreams Stands the Stranger

The state’s war against the African migrants is a badge of shame when with some support, they could become part of the diverse fabric of Israeli society.

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In our dreams, the stranger who lives among us lives a life of equality and justice in the State of Israel. The eve of Rosh Hashanah is a good time for dreams about the coming year, and the bitter fate of some 60,000 African migrants merits our wishes that they enjoy a good (or at least a better) year. And the same goes for the State of Israel. For there is no better yardstick by which to measure its attitudes toward the stranger and the other, as well as the racism that has spread within it, than its shameful attitude toward African migrants.

In our dreams stands the stranger. The gates of the country have been closed to him almost completely – in August, not a single migrant slipped across the border. So now is the time to deal justly with those who live here, who comprise less than one percent of the state’s population, a much smaller percentage than in most other countries. One of our wishes for the State of Israel in the new year is a fundamental change in its attitude to these people, who threatens neither the security nor the character of the state. Let us educate their children and allow their parents to earn a living and to live with dignity in our nation of refugees.

The commandment to love the stranger is the most frequently cited mitzvah in the Torah. We must not view this dream as utopian. It is possible, and it will only strengthen the state’s moral foundation.

Yet just as we are poised to enter the new year, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, has revealed himself to be even worse and more benighted than his predecessor. With nauseating pride, Sa’ar has flaunted an agreement with Uganda (which hasn’t yet been signed) to deport migrants to that country, and signed a draconian order that forbids migrants to transfer money to their homelands.

The state’s war against the migrants is a badge of shame. Instead of creating a real protocol for evaluating their eligibility for asylum, instead of granting residency to those who are eligible and drafting a gradual, supervised path to citizenship – as Israel, a “light unto the nations,” ought to do – it is doing everything it can to deport them. It’s true that the concentration of refugees in poor neighborhoods of Tel Aviv creates social problems, but only giving them a reasonable possibility of working will solve that problem. The criminal persecution they currently face only worsens it.

In our dreams, Gabriel from Sudan and Maryam from Eritrea go to school and obtain an education; their parents work; and together, they become part of the diverse fabric of Israeli society. Happy New Year.

Migrant workers from Africa at the Tel Aviv central bus station.Credit: Nir Keidar

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