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Passover and Asylum Seekers

Chag Sameach!

Ever since I came to Israel, there has been one hot button issue that has been in the news the entire time. The issue of African asylum seekers has been a baffling one for me, especially considering the anti-immigrant sentiment that is currently raging in the U.S. government. I knew that one of my fellow staff members from camp had recently moved to Israel to work for the Migrants and Refugees Hotline. It seems every other week there is an anti-deportation rally in Tel Aviv. This week’s newsletter touches on IRAC’s work in opposing the deportation of African asylum seekers.

The main theme of the newsletter focuses on the ideas of Exodus, with holiday of Passover quickly approaching. The main textual approach used comes from Exodus 23:9, "You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt." This should be a time of celebrating freedom from oppression, instead, Israelis are forced to battle oppression by their government against asylum seekers.

In both the US and Israel, important Jewish organizations have passed motions in support of asylum seekers. The Jewish Agency, the largest Jewish non-profit, recently spoke out against the deportation of asylum seekers, in one of its few breaks with Israel’s government. Even ardent defenders of Israel’s government from the United States, such as Alan Dershowitz, have spoken out.

At a time when Jews around the world commemorate their own freedom from slavery in Egypt, they need to keep in mind that the government of the world’s only Jewish state is threatening to deport those who seek the same liberation that they once did thousands of years ago. In an article posted by Naomi Chazan, a professor and former Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, she writes that this year’s seder “comes with a concrete mission: to prevent the state built by Jewish refugees from expelling those who seek a haven in its midst.” This year, IRAC is co-hosting a “freedom seder” on the second night of Passover, with asylum seekers in Jerusalem. Keep this group on your mind and in your thoughts and actions during this Passover Holiday.

Until Next Time,

Mitchell

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