At midnight on the 9th of July, the new South Sudanese national anthem played on television recognizing the official beginning of South Sudan as an Independent democratic country.
In fact, the process of determining the new anthem was arguably one of the first exercises in democracy. The South Sudanese government invited citizens to participate in writing the anthem. Ultimately, it was the teachers and students at Juba University who composed the winning anthem making a distinct difference from the former militaristic anthem of Sudan.
Until now, Sudan has been globally regarded as a place in Africa where miallions were killed in genocide. Many Sudanese escaped to Israel to illegally seek refuge from their homeland. And although Israel is often feared as a country rife with violence and turmoil by way of rockets and bombings, these Sudanese refugees truly understand what it means to live in a land with no democracy and no freedom from violence.
I often see these Sudanese men walking in Tel Aviv, their faces showing all that they have experienced. They are hard workers and like the rest of us, looking to live a life of peace. One day, I asked one of these men, “Why do you want to be in Israel?” His answer was quick. He said, “I am free. Israel is a democracy.”
This man prefers to live in a Jewish democratic state, which gives Jewish and non-Jewish people the same rights and freedoms. He told me about his daughter, who is enrolled in the Bialik Rogozin school in Tel Aviv and is proud of her amazing grades. In Sudan he is known as Musa, but in Israel, he calls himself Moshe. He cleans houses and has worked harder than most of us ever will at achieving a life of freedom and relative comfort. I could not help but think of him on July 9th and what it means to him that his home, South Sudan, is now a democratic country.
Is he learning the words to the new anthem? Was he celebrating with his fellow countrymen in the streets in Tel Aviv, waving the beautiful new South Sudan flag? What will happen to his daughter, the young girl who spent many years growing up Israeli? It makes me very happy to know that this man’s only conflict now is to determine whether he will remain in Israel or whether he will return to his homeland to strengthen his identity and experience the new democracy.
Congratulations Moshe/Musa, on your country’s Independence.