Rabbinical Assembly Calls on Israel to Safeguard Rights of African Asylum Seekers

R.A. opposes current plan to rapidly deport would-be refugees from Sudan and Eritrea.

The Rabbinical Assembly, the official body representing rabbis in the Conservative/Masorti movement, issued the following statement regarding African asylum-seekers in Israel:

As Jews, we are taught to love the stranger, and open our homes and hearts to those who seek refuge among us. Israel's plan to deport thousands of African asylum-seekers would be a break from this Jewish tradition. Under the government's plan, almost all African asylum seekers in Israel would be presented with the choice of long-term detention or deportation upon the expiration of their short-term visas, with the goal of removing the majority of asylum seekers in the next few years. We have grave concerns about this initiative, which has raised cries of dissent in Israel and throughout the Jewish world. Most current asylum seekers hail from Eritrea or Sudan, two countries that have sadly been riven by ethnic and political violence, and sending them back to these or neighboring countries could return their lives to danger. Israel is a nation of refugees, which has welcomed millions of Jews fleeing post-war Europe, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union. It was founded, if not in the shadow of the Holocaust, certainly on its heels, and on a tradition of Jewish values and universal human rights. And as such it is bound to promote the rights of all refugees, no matter their religious status. The Rabbinical Assembly urges the government of Israel to shelve its current plans and immediately begin a fair, transparent and expedient process to evaluate asylum claims. We also call on our members to continue the vital work of assisting refugees in Israel, the United States and throughout the world, teaching our communities at the same time to take the lead in advocating for the rights of all refugees.