It might seem ironic that the Jewish people annually celebrate freedom in the homeland of Israel, while there are about 40,000 asylum seekers living here in exile.
Kidane Isaac, 26, fled his homeland of Eritrea at the age of 21. After a long journey with stops in Sudan and Libya, Kidane finally crossed through Egypt and over to Israel a year and a half ago, hoping to find a safe place away the dictatorship and persecution of the countries he fled.
“I am from the country where there is no democracy or freedom for its own citizens,” Kidane told The Jerusalem Post last week.
Despite the Jewish history of wandering in exile, still the Jewish state does not have clear policies for dealing with refugees.
According to Steven Beck, director of Israel-Diaspora Relations and a volunteer with the African Refugee Development Center (ARDC), Israel lacks a uniform policy to know who is legitimately a refugee and entitled to protection and there is confusion within Israeli society that all Africans here simply come in looking for work.
“As we read in the Bible, Jews themselves were refugees,” Kidane said. “They wished to have freedom, that they can live free without any oppression, and then all of the sudden, in a way, forgot their history. So this Pessah (Passover), I think, this culture, in a way reminds Israelis the history that they had.”
Kidane is a member of the Eritrean Asylum Seekers Committee, and working together with the ARDC, he helped organize the alternative Passover refugee Seder on Wednesday night at Levinsky Park.
Nic Schlagman, Humanitarian Coordinator at ARDC, read the English translation of the Seder’s text, giving a different script to the meaning of Passover today.
“Today tens of thousands of our brothers and sisters are fleeing countries run by modern day pharaoh, fleeing brutal dictators and organized murder, running for their lives. Many of you here today made the same journey across the same desert. You have arrived here in Israel hoping to find freedom and rebuild your lives. The question we have today is where is our Moses? Who will lead us all to freedom?“
Although the reminder of Jews’ refugee history will come and go with every spring, Levinsky Park will remain, more or less, a permanent refuge for hundreds of people living in exile.