Halpern: Israel land of refuge (not only for Jews)


I'm thinking

by Micah D. Halpern

Issue of September 17, 2010/ 9 Tishrei 5771
Suleiman Yahya Ishaq is dead, shot at the age of 25 by Egyptian police. They shot him in the head and then riddled his body with bullets. They shot him because he was ordered to stop — and he refused.

Ishaq, a Sudanese refugee, was attempting to escape from Egypt into Israel. He almost made it. Sudan and Egypt are Muslim countries. Conditions in Sudan are so horrific  that Sudanese Muslims regularly risk their lives crossing into Egypt, and risk their lives again crossing through Egypt into Israel, where they finally find refuge. In the Jewish State, the people of Sudan feel safe.

The trip is as difficult physically as it is emotionally. Maps can convey the distance between Sudan and Israel, but they cannot convey the dangers or explain the logic that motivates Muslims to cross deserts, fight off thieves and soldiers as they flee to Israel. We cannot comprehend the fear and yearning that motivates Sudanese people to give up their homes in one Arab country, illegally pass through another and fulfill their dreams in Israel.

What have they heard about the Jewish State that so entices the Sudanese to seek refuge there? They are not secret Jews who have been taught about the holiness of Israel or the uniqueness of the Jewish people and their connection to their land.

These are Sudanese refugees seeking asylum in Israel because they have heard the truth about Israel. They risk their lives to enter Israel because in Israel people can live free. They do not care that Israel is a Jewish state; they care about freedom. Suleiman Yahya Ishaq did not make it, but thousands of refugees from Sudan have. Ishaq was the 35th person to be shot dead on the Egyptian side of the fence. Hundreds have been wounded. To Israel’s credit, the people of Sudan are not sent away after they have crossed the border. The Egyptian border treats their Sudanese Muslim cousins much less kindly than the Israelis treat these strangers in their midst. The Egyptians think little of shooting the Sudanese they catch. From their side of the border, Israel can actually watch the migrants as they make their way to the border. They watch as the Egyptian army attacks the refugees. Israeli border patrols cannot stop the Egyptians from shooting the defenseless Sudanese — that would cause an international incident. On their own side of the border, the government of Israel has begun the humanitarian process of granting asylum and refugee status to their Sudanese guests.

The Sudanese in Israel are not security threats. They are not terrorists or drug traffickers. They are people escaping death and searching for life and refuge. Life means Israel. Death is the Arab land they are escaping. Israel is the beacon of hope for parts of the Arab world. Israel is worth risking your life for — not only by Jews.

Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. Read his latest book THUGS. He maintains The Micah Report at www.micahhalpern.com.