Yehudah Glick: Israel obligated to take in Ukrainian refugees

Opinion: Bible teaches not to neglect the stranger, the alien or the sojourner.

 The refugee absorption center set up by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee for Jews from Ukraine and Romania.  (photo credit: JDC)
The refugee absorption center set up by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee for Jews from Ukraine and Romania.
(photo credit: JDC)

The world is following the Russian invasion of Ukraine with great concern.

With every new piece of news about another strike on an apartment building, our hearts stop in shock. Nobody can remain indifferent watching the photos on our screens of pregnant women being driven to shelters.

Once again refugees are knocking on the gates of countries that seem far from the threat begging to enter the safe zone.

Author Rabbi Yehudah Glick (Credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)Author Rabbi Yehudah Glick (Credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The State of Israel a few decades ago wasn't considered a preference for anybody. In the 1980s we had inflation rates of over 400%. Who could have dreamt that less than 40 years later, we would be one of the most attractive in the West? Who could have predicted that this small country would be a world-leading economy?

Together with this status, we cannot escape facing new challenges. This time, the challenges are not military or financial. We have reached the moment in history where we are forced to cope with the foundational questions of life. No getting away from ethical ambivalence, no hiding from existential and serious decisions.

The Torah says do not neglect the stranger

Here is the time to follow the word of the Book.

Yes, we have so many excuses, some particularly good ones, but at these moments we must open our ears to the Book.

True the Ukrainian people were not the friendliest to our people throughout history and that is an understatement. But, again, and again the Bible repeats the command not to neglect the stranger, the alien, the sojourner.Not only are we told the obvious – to be nice to these people and not to cheat them – we are obliged to love them. To love them exactly like ourselves. Like the widow and the orphans, we are demanded to declare that we have not forgotten them.

The Lord himself is referred to as the lover of the immigrants. We who were treated cruelly in Egypt are to be familiar with the souls of those who are mistreated.

Yes, we have set up a Jewish state for the first time in thousands of years and the Jewishness of the country is not measured merely by numbers, rather mainly by who we are and what we represent.

It is of course reasonable to build laws to understand better how to do it with maximum efficiency, but the Jewish people who less than a century ago suffered from the cold shoulder of so many nations and paid the disastrous price of six million lives, can by no means behave the same towards those who need us now.

At this moment, the question is not how many or by what means.

The widow and orphan must be taken in no matter what the cause of death of the deceased spouse or parent was. So too is the case with the alien; we do not differentiate what kind of stranger he is. If he is in need, we are to refer to him as a Levite and embrace him with love.

We are demanded to choose to follow in the footsteps of the Lord Himself and be a light unto the nations. We are to serve Him as a beacon of illumination to the entire universe.

After all, the Lord chose us exactly for that purpose.

Yehudah Glick is a former Knesset member (Likud). He is president of the Shalom Jerusalem Foundation.