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Knowing the Stranger

Jewish Texts and Asylum Seekers in Israel

Binah at the J - Toronto's Jewish Learning Co-Operative

Source Sheet by Aaron Rotenberg
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Created February 7, 2014 · 3517 Views · נוצר 7 February, 2014 · 3517 צפיות ·

  1. (ט) וְגֵר לֹא תִלְחָץ וְאַתֶּם יְדַעְתֶּם אֶת נֶפֶשׁ הַגֵּר כִּי גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.

    (9) And a stranger shalt thou not oppress; for you know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

  2. - What are some potential similarities between the stranger and a refugee? 

  3. (לד) כְּאֶזְרָח מִכֶּם יִהְיֶה לָכֶם הַגֵּר הַגָּר אִתְּכֶם וְאָהַבְתָּ לוֹ כָּמוֹךָ כִּי גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם.

    (34) The stranger that sojourneth with you shall be unto you as the home-born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

  4. (א) "כי גרים הייתם" - מום שבך אל תאמר לחברך (ב) "אני ה' אלהיכם" - אלהיך ואלהיו אני

    For you were strangers: Do not accuse your fellow man with

    your own defect. - [B.M. 59b]

    I am the Lord, your God (Eloheichem): Here, the word for “your” God,  אלֹהֵיכֶם,

    is in the plural; thus, regarding the stranger, Scripture reminds you:

     I am Your God and his God!

  5. - What does Rashi's comment add to an understanding of looking out for the stranger?

    - What is the role of shared experience in dealing sensitively with others compared to the role of a universal understanding of human experience (we all share the same God)?

  6. (טז) לֹא תַסְגִּיר עֶבֶד אֶל אֲדֹנָיו אֲשֶׁר יִנָּצֵל אֵלֶיךָ מֵעִם אֲדֹנָיו. (יז) עִמְּךָ יֵשֵׁב בְּקִרְבְּךָ בַּמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר בְּאַחַד שְׁעָרֶיךָ בַּטּוֹב לוֹ לֹא תּוֹנֶנּוּ.

    (16) Thou shalt not deliver unto his master a bondman that is escaped from his master unto thee; (17) he shall dwell with thee, in the midst of thee, in the place which he shall choose within one of thy gates, where it liketh him best; thou shalt not wrong him.

  7. - How does this source relate to asylum seekers? 

    - What exactly are our responsibilities to someone seeking asylum at our gates according to this source?

    - What does this source say about where asylum seekers should be able to seek refuge? 

  8. History of Being Sojourners/ Homeless


    Genesis 3:22-24 Adam and Eve uprooted from the garden and forced out

    Genesis 12:1 Abraham, called to leave his home and go to a new land

    Genesis 37-46 Joseph sold into slavery in a strange land

    Exodus 2:15-22 Moses as a guest in Midian

    Deuteronomy 6:10-12 Remember, you were once sojourners

    Deuteronomy 26:5 Remember, a wandering Aramean was my father

    I Samuel 23-24 David, like a refugee, hides in the wilderness to escape death



    -Israel was founded on the principle of protecting Jews seeking asylum, (framed after the Holocaust).  In the light of Jewish history (where Jews were both sojourners and persecuted), how do you think Israel should treat other persecuted people? 

    - How do our experiences inform the way we respond to the needs of others? 

  9. (ה) והאלהים יבקש את נרדף (קהלת ג): ר' הונא בשם רב יוסף אמר: לעולם, והאלהים יבקש את נרדף. אתה מוצא צדיק רודף צדיק, והאלהים יבקש את נרדף. רשע רודף צדיק והאלהים יבקש את נרדף. רשע רודף רשע והאלהים יבקש את נרדף. אפילו צדיק רודף רשע, והאלהים יבקש את נרדף. מכל מקום והאלהים יבקש את נרדף. רבי יהודה ב"ר סימון אמר, בשם ר' יוחנן, ב"ר נהוראי: לעולם הקב"ה תובע דמן של נרדפין מן הרודפין. תדע לך שכן הוא שכן הבל נרדף מפני קין ובחר הקדוש ברוך הוא בהבל, שנאמר (בראשית ד): וישע ה' אל הבל ואל מנחתו. נח נרדף מפני דורו ולא בחר הקב"ה, אלא בנח, שנאמר (שם ז): כי אותך ראיתי צדיק לפני בדור הזה. אברהם נרדף מפני נמרוד, ובחר הקדוש ברוך הוא באברהם, שנאמר (נחמיה ט): אתה הוא ה' האלהים אשר בחרת באברם. יצחק נרדף מפני פלשתים, ובחר הקב"ה ביצחק, שנאמר (בראשית כו): ראה ראינו כי היה ה' עמך. יעקב נרדף מפני עשו, ובחר הקדוש ברוך הוא ביעקב, שנאמר (תהלים קלה): כי יעקב בחר לו יה. יוסף נרדף מפני אחיו, ובחר הקב"ה ביוסף, שנאמר (שם פא): עדות ביהוסף שמו. משה נרדף מפני פרעה, ובחר הקדוש ברוך הוא במשה, שנאמר (שם קו): לולי משה בחירו. דוד נרדף מפני שאול, ובחר הקב"ה בדוד, שנאמר: (שם עח): ויבחר בדוד עבדו. שאול נרדף מפני פלשתים, ובחר הקדוש ברוך הוא בשאול, שנאמר: (שמואל א יב): הראיתם אשר בחר בו ה'. ישראל נרדפין מפני האומות, ובחר הקב"ה בישראל, שנאמר (דברים יד): ובך בחר ה' להיות לו לעם סגולה. רבי אליעזר ב"ר יוסי בן זמרא אמר: אף בקרבנות כך. אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא: שור נרדף מפני ארי, עז נרדף מפני נמר, כבש מפני זאב, לא תקריבו לפני מן הרודפים, אלא מן הנרדפין, הדא הוא דכתיב (ויקרא כג): שור או כשב או עז כי יולד:

    (5) And God seeks that which is pursued (Eccl. 3:15). Always ‘God seeks that which is pursued’. You find a case where a righteous man pursues a righteous man, ‘And God seeks that which is pursued’; where a wicked man pursues a righteous man, ‘And God seeks that which is pursued’; where a wicked man pursues a wicked man, ‘And God seeks that which is pursued’; even where a righteous man pursues a wicked man, ‘And God seeks that which is pursued.’ Whatever the case, ‘And God seeks that which is pursued.’ …

    The Holy One demands satisfaction for the blood of the pursued at the hands of the pursuers. Abel was pursued by Cain and the Holy One chose Abel... Noah was pursued by his generation, and the Holy one chose Noah. Abraham was pursued by Nimrod, and the Holy One chose Abraham. Isaac was pursued by the Philistines, and the Holy One chose Isaac. Jacob was pursued by Esau, and the Holy One chose Jacob. Joseph was pursued by his brothers, the Holy One chose Joseph. 
    Moses was pursued by Pharoah, and the Holy One chose Moses. David was pursued by Saul, and the Holy One chose David. Saul was pursued by the Philistines, and the Holy One chose Saul. Israel are pursued by the nations, and the Holy One chose Israel. 

    In the case of the sacrifices, also it is so. The Holy One, blessed be He, said: ‘The Ox is pursued by the lion, the goat is pursued by the leopard, the lamb by the wolf; do not offer unto Me from those that pursue but from those that are pursued.’ Hence if is written, “When a bullock, or a sheep, or a goat, is brought forth …It may be accepted for an offering” (Lev. 22:27). 

  10. - What is this source's perspective on looking out for those who are running away/ being pursued?

    - Is there value/harm in always looking out primarily for the "pursued" and disadvantaged? 



    Deportation Now!




    What would you think if I told you of a country that, in the middle of its financial and cultural center, allowed the existence of an autonomous district in which the laws of the state do not apply? What would you say if I informed you that more than 25,000 residents of this urban area – the same population size as an average city in this country – are illegal residents of the State of Israel? 

    There are over 80,000 illegal infiltrators in Israel. In 2011, that number increased by 17,000, and since the beginning of 2012 more than 8,000 people have crossed our borders illegally. We are at a critical crossroads with a strategic demographic threat developing within our borders that may upend our country’s very character as a Jewish and democratic state. It is nonsensical that such large numbers of illegal infiltrators from Africa are settling permanently in our country and so little is being done to rectify this problem. This is especially highlighted when taking into account that the crime rate among the infiltrators is almost double the rate of that in the general population. The desperately necessary solution is a three-pronged program to end this dangerous phenomenon: stop, arrest and deport.

    We have begun to make progress on the first element of this plan. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahuan historic project is being completed along our southern border. Millions of shekels have been budgeted to build a (hopefully) impregnable fence between Egypt and Israel. 

    Together with an intensified effort by the IDF and the Border Police, we may soon see a shifting of the tide in terms of the numbers of infiltrators who are able to cross into Israel undetected.

    Regarding the second element, arrest, we are also beginning to see more action from the government. Whenever infiltrators succeed in eluding capture and make it safely into Israeli territory, they must be immediately detained. Understanding the strain that a large increase in arrests will exert on our prison services, the government has approved the building of an advanced detention center. Once completed, excuses about lack of space and resources needed to house those who break our laws by sneaking into our country will no longer be valid.

    While we are slowing the flow of illegal infiltrators and detaining those who do gain entry, we must simultaneously begin to seriously implement the third part of this strategy. All illegal infiltrators in the State of Israel must be deported immediately. Some will go home to Africa, while others may be sent to Eastern Europeonce repatriation and compensation agreements are reached. But in the end, they all must go. This may sound like a complicated process, but through increased, stricter enforcement, along with smart new legislation when needed, we can quickly simplify the process. Most importantly, it must be carried out properly and swiftly. 

    Some on the extreme left cry out that it is unfair to demand that we send these people home. While opponents may be trying to score cheap political points against the Likud government, we must not get bogged down by responding to their simplistic and often blatantly false accusations. We do not have the luxury of burying our heads in the sand and ignoring the burgeoning threat to our society that is making headlines on an almost daily basis.

    The Likud government has begun to take important steps to implement this plan, but there is much to do and not much time left. Every day that goes by in which infiltrators are not stopped, arrested and deported merely encourages an increase in the number of Africans who attempt to reach Israel. We must make clear to ourselves and to the world that we will no longer tolerate this attack on our sovereignty.

    The State of Israel has never been known to shy away from strategic threats that endanger the existence of the Jewish homeland. Just in the past few months, our leaders have made it abundantly clear that we are willing to do whatever it takes to stop such a threat a half continent away. There is no reason that the issue of illegal infiltrators should be treated any more lightly. We must all unite and increase the public pressure on our government to ensure that it acts immediately on all necessary fronts to end this threat once and for all.

    The writer is deputy speaker of the Knesset and chairman of World Likud. He is also the founder and chairman of “Deportation Now!” – an extra-parliamentary group formed to stop the tide of illegal infiltrators into Israel. 




    African asylum seekers strike to demand rights, hold unprecedented rally in Tel Aviv


     Published January 5, 2014 -


    In an unprecedented protest, some 20,000 African asylum seekers march to Rabin Square to demand that Israel examine their asylum claims and stop arresting and detaining members of the refugee community.

    Asylum seekers demonstrate in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on the first day of a three-day strike protesting detentions and demanding refugee status, January 5, 2014. (Photo:


    Over 20,000 asylum seekers, mostly from Eritrea, assembled in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square Sunday morning to demand recognition as refugees. Across Israel, asylum seekers went on a three-day strike, and more protests were planned.


    In recent weeks, the government stepped up the arrest and imprisonment of African asylum seekers who entered the state without permits. Several months ago, Israel’s High Court of Justice struck down a law authorizing the state to lock up for three years any person who entered the country illegally, and in some cases, indefinitely. But last month the Knesset passed a new law, authorizing the state to hold asylum seekers in “closed” prisons for a year. A new “open” holding facility named “Holot” began operating in the desert, where asylum seekers can be held indefinitely until their eventual deportation.


    The government has stepped up enforcement measures against Israeli businesses that employ asylum seekers in recent weeks and months and municipalities have been shutting down shops and restaurants owned by Africans, adding to a feeling of despair in the asylum seeker community.

    The general strike is the latest step in the African protest campaign against the recent measures. Dozens of asylum seekers walked out of the Holot facility (most of them were returned by force), large marches took place in Tel Aviv and Eritrean dissidents broke into an event in the North hosted by the Eritrean ambassador to Israel. Some 50 people were injured and arrested in the fight that broke out between the regime supporters and the protesters.

    Most asylum seekers who do work are employed in hotels and restaurants, mostly as various types of cleaners.


    Protesters in Tel Aviv held signs reading: “We are not criminals; we are refugees,” and “Freedom”. Speakers told stories about the plight of the community. “We are living in fear,” one speaker said, “the government waged war on us.” At least a couple members of Knesset showed up and expressed their support for the asylum seekers.


    Speaking at the rally, chair of the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) said, “this is an existing moment: tens of thousands of innocent people are not willing to go to prison, standing together and shouting: ‘we are not criminals.”

    “There are certain steps (taken by the state) about which we cannot stay silent,” she continued. “It’s time for real answers – and the government can give them.”


    There are some 53,000 African Asylum seekers in Israel. The government refuses to review their individual requests for refugee status and instead refers to them as “infiltrators.” The term, which was used to describe Palestinians refugees that tried to enter the country in the 1950s, is also commonly used in the Hebrew media.


  13. Letter from Hunger Strikers in the Saharonim Prison 

    Hunger strike for freedom and human rights

    To the Israeli people, human rights organizations and the press:

    This is a call to all the people who believe in humanity.

    We are calling for the recognition of our rights as refugees.

    We are calling to put a stop to the Sudanese refugees suffering inside Israeli prisons.

    We are Sudanese refugees imprisoned in Israeli prisons. We have escaped from our homeland since our lives are in danger under the terror of the Sudanese government, and since we have suffered from the scourge of war that is still raging on in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile.

    All the world knows the scale of the humanitarian disaster that has happened in Sudan: killing, rape, genocide, ethnic cleansing, looting and the systematic targeting of the black African ethnicities by the Sudanese government. The persecution, torture and murder by the Sudanese security forces of political activists and the opposition groups that belong to the black African ethnicities.

    We are Sudanese refugees, we escaped to the Israeli state because we had great faith that the democratic state of Israel, that respects human rights, can protect and accept us as refugees until the reasons from which we escaped are resolved.

    We are Sudanese refugees. We escaped to the Israeli state to ask for protection but the Israeli government didn’t accept us as refugees. Instead, they put us in prison since June 2012 until today, 05.01.2014.

    Only nine months after we were imprisoned we were finally allowed to apply for asylum, but up until today we have not received an answer or a decision in our requests for political asylum. The supreme High Court decided to release all the prisoners from ‘Saharonim’ and ‘Ketsiot’ prison on the 16.09.2013, but the government didn’t respect the court’s decision to release us and instead they sent us to ‘Holot’ prison on Friday the 13.12.2013, calling us infiltrators and not refugees.

    On Sunday the 15.12.2013 we left walking from ‘Holot’ prison to Beer Sheva and from there to Jerusalem to protest against the government’s decision to prevent our release. During the protest in front of the parliament we were violently arrested in front of all the media and human rights organizations. Once again, we were returned to the ‘Saharonim’ prison.

    We are Sudanese refugees imprisoned in’ Saharonim’ prison; we are on hunger strike because until today we have not received the government’s answer about our asylum requests. We will continue the hunger strike until our requests will be fulfilled, or we will die from hunger. There is no point in life without human freedom.

    Either we live as humans with all our basic rights or we don’t live at all.

    We request:

    1. Release us into Israel and deal with us as refugees according to international law and the Geneva refugee convention.

    2. If the Israeli government can't protect us and deal with us as humans and refugees in Israel, they should pass us to international human rights organizations for refugees to find for us a state that can protect us and deal with us as refugees. We cannot go back to our countries in this time and we can’t spend our lives as displaced refugees in prison.

    The Sudanese refugees, ‘Saharonim’ prison 05.01.2014

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