I can still remember how proud I was as a kid when Israel took in over 300 Vietnamese boat people in the late seventies. Today I’m not feeling particularly proud. As I read the news of the deportations of 150 Sudanese refugees, largely women and children, I was mostly very sad.
There is no easy answer to the problem of these refugees. Many of them headed for Israel because they believed that the Jews would be kind to them and, in some cases, they were. Undoubtedly, terrorists could take advantage of the situation. There’s no doubt Israel should have a better patrolled border with Egypt.
Even with these caveats, it was still upsetting to read this about the young children:
“Their parents were mostly at work and the children spoke Hebrew amongst themselves. In Sudan this is immediate danger. The parents received instructions never to say that they lived in Israel, but the children are far less aware and they will endanger themselves,” says Orit Rubin, from the Assaf organization.
Elsewhere I read that one mother was desperately afraid that her child would be caught saying, “Shalom.”
One of the areas where I depart from other Jews is that I don’t believe in the concept of “Jewish values.” Judaism doesn’t supply my value system. However, Jewish history does inform it. If there’s one thing we should have learned it’s that we should do our very best to help people fleeing for their lives.
Reading the many, many negative comments about the refugees in “talkbacks” in the Hebrew press was further disheartening. I won’t bother repeating them, but take my word for it, they certainly didn’t show any sign of learning this lesson of Jewish history.