March 27, 2018 by J-Wire Newsdesk
Young adults in their 20s and 30s joined the New Israel Fund Australia, Stand Up, Habonim Dror and Netzer youth movements to learn more about the refugee situation in Israel and Australia and its relevance to the festival of freedom, Pesach.
The evening was focused on learning more about the situation for refugees and those seeking asylum but also offered concrete ways that people can make change.
“Accepting refugees and those seeking asylum remains contentious throughout the world, particularly as numbers eclipse 65 million, however the particularly draconian responses of both Israel and Australia to this humanitarian crisis leave a lot to be desired,” said New Israel Fund Naomi Chazan Fellow Graham Kaplan.
His session focused on the 38,000 largely Eritrean and Sudanese refugees who are living in South Tel Aviv, many of whom now face deportation by the government to Rwanda or Uganda. He also spoke about various groups of Israelis who have chosen to challenge the government’s decision including Holocaust survivors, rabbis, El Al pilots who are refusing to fly the deportees and many others. These actions have helped deliver a temporary halt to the deportations.
The young adults rotated through three stations focusing on the refugee situation in Israel and the work of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, youth refugees and modern-day connections with the themes of the seder.
“The pesach seder is a format where the rituals and liturgy of the festival are democratised. Families are invited to be the authors of their own freedom narratives, and the content of the conversation is all user-generated,” said Sydney Stand Up director George Schneider. The motivation for “this event was an opportunity to give people tools and content to bring the global refugee crisis to their seder table. It might not make the front page of the news, but for participants of this event this modern-day exodus will certainly be part of the discourse,” he added.
Following the rotations, Sudanese refugee Ahmed Yehya Tigani spoke of his harrowing journey to Australia via Manus Island. This was followed by a number of volunteers from SASS (Supporting Asylum Seekers Sydney) who spoke to the group about visiting Villawood Detention Centre.
“It was really important for members of the Jewish community to engage in a discussion about refugees issues, both in Israel and Australia. Whilst the night had some heavy and somewhat demoralising themes, I left the evening feeling really optimistic that our Jewish community would help embody the idea of ‘never again’ and make this an election issue so that these atrocities stop happening” said Reuben Challis, Sydney treasurer for Habonim Dror.
Earlier in the day Challis and a number of other Habonim Dror leaders had attended a refugee rally in Sydney.
J-Wire Jewish Australian News Service