Warning: sensitive material. If you react easily to triggers, do not read the text in italics.
Jewish responsibility is on my mind as I read today’s news from Israel. While it could be argued that the intricacies and moral implications are best left to rabbis and other community leaders, I disagree. We are each responsible for the world we live in.
The case of non-Jewish refugees in Israel is a current topic of much debate. The Knesset voted today to give the refugees of Darfur save haven in Israel until they can safely find a home somewhere else. Meanwhile, Shoah (Holocaust) survivors are still negotiating with the Israeli government to get higher living allowances. The current offer stands at $20 extra a month.
While these two stories are seemingly worlds apart, they both hark back to the obligations of responsibility. I have heard people argue that Israel is the Jewish homeland and that it is hard enough work to live here as Jews. Our borders aren’t secure, our schools need help, unemployment is high, our immigrant population needs deep help, and there are too many poor among. How can we help someone else, especially when we don’t have the capacity to help them fully?
I ask: how can we not? Our history demands that we do what we can to help others who were where we once stood. Abraham says to Sarah: “Be kind to strangers because we were once strangers in a strange land.” Nothing could be truer. If we can only offer them physical safety: dayenu. If we provide food and drink and safe shelter: dayenu. If we provide housing and schooling: dayenu. Their numbers are small and we are obligated as a people to do as much both out of a sense of moral rectitude and pure empathy for other human beings.
Still aren’t convinced. Read one IDF soldier’s account:
“However, Egyptian troops who also discovered the refugees, fired upon them, immediately killing two and wounding a third. A fourth refugee ran towards the fence and an IDF soldier stretched out his hands, trying to help him cross.
At that point, the soldier recalled, two Egyptian soldiers arrived and started pulling at the refugee’s legs.
“It was literally like we were playing ‘tug of war’ with this man,” the soldier said. The soldier eventually loosened his grip on the man, fearing the Egyptians would shoot him.
“They were aiming loaded weapons straight at us, I was afraid they were going to shoot us,” he said.
The Egyptians then carried the man several meters away from the border fence, and proceeded to beat him and another wounded refugee to death with stones and clubs.”
For more information on Jewish covenental responsibility see:
- MyJewishLearning.com: Our Covenental Responsibility
- The American Jewish World Service: Responding to Genocide: Jewish Perspectives on the Responsibiliy to Protect (Aaron Dorfman)
And for Sudanese refugees in Israel:
- Inter Press Service: Holocaust Memories Over Sudanese Refugees (gives a good on Israel’s past reaction to those seeking refuge)
- Global Voices Online: blogs from Israel in translation (I object to the title of the article that angers me and is not relevant or logical)
The most important question is: What can we do?
I do not know, but I will be thinking about it and try to find out. When I do, it will be posted here. I am interested in hearing your thoughts.