Kick off project: Tiyul L’Pliti
Israel Activist’s latest project aims to raise funds for and awareness of the African refugee community currently living in Israel through a 2-day sponsored hike of Har Meron, the highest mountain in Israel.
Large numbers of African refugees are living in Egypt and being pursued by the authorities, causing many to move on to Sinai and into the Negev. The Egyptian authorities have been attempting to stop the refugees from crossing the border into Israel, and in several incidents have fatally wounded people, but usually fail to deal with the stream of refugees. Consequently, due to help from the local Bedouin community and various private agents, African refugees from South Sudan, Eritrea, The Ivory Coast, Darfur and others are entering Israel through the Egyptian boarder regularly. Most of the refugees live in southern Israel, in the Negev and Eilat, while some live in Tel Aviv and central Israel. Some manage to rent apartments, while some live on the streets.
Whilst a growing number of the Jewish community, both inside Israel and abroad, are aware of the current refugee situation in Israel, many are unaware of how they can help. We are convinced that if more of the global Jewish community were aware of the current situation, international pressure and an increase in funds could greatly improve the situation for the community living in Israel.
As we approach Pesach and recall our flight from oppression it is imperative we do not forget this eternal message, for all people to be free to pursue their dreams and for the land of Israel to serve as a place of refuge and safety.
Consequently, Israel Activist’s will be running a 2-day sponsored hike in the North of Israel: ‘Tiyul L’Pliti’. The hike will be run for Jews living in Israel and young members of the African refugee communities. The hike will be taking place on 30th-31st May 2008, for a maximum of 80 participants.
To raise participants awareness to the situation through educational programming.
To encourage the development of genuine relationships with their peers in the African refugee community.
To fundraise in order to assist in providing long-term self-sustainability for the refugee communities.
To create an environment of mutual learning, where participants learn each other’s stories; so that the young Diaspora Jews are armed with enough information to be young advocates; and the young African refugees gain a deeper insight into the society in which they are living.
To foster strong and close relationships between participants in order to facilitate implementation of joint activism after the event.
To increase the level of awareness in Diaspora Jewish communities of the refugee situation in Israel. This will be achieved through: Participants increased understanding of the situation, and subsequently returning to their communities and speaking about their experience; and through participation and collective fundraising we aim to provide information about where the funds will be used and subsequently raise awareness to the plight of African refugees living in Israel.
The hike will be from Mount Meron to the Kinneret over 48 hours. Participants are asked to raise a minimum of $200 to participate in the program. We will be running this tiyul for 80 participants, the program will be offered to young people living in Israel from countries across the entire world.
Who we are
Nic, Seth and Naomi (Israel Activists) are a group of Olim (immigrants) from the UK with more than 30 years combined experience of Jewish youth work and informal education. We have been working the last few years here in Israel both with the refugee community and with students on long term programs.
Instilled with a strong sense of social responsibility since our youth, babes in arms, with our mothers on Greenham Common Israel activists have long appreciated the power and importance of social activism.
The members of our team have run various campaigns and fundraising events both in the UK and here in Israel.
We have come together to form Israel activists through our shared goals of raising awareness of contemporary issues in Israeli society and our belief in youth power.
We are constantly being harrased by hordes of willing/eager young people to go out into the community and start making a difference. The thirst for knowledge of current issues and the desire to contribute to the community they are in has given us all we needed to provide real and relevant opportunities for us all to be socially active.
Budget for this event
For one person to participate in the hike it costs NIS 221/$ 60 – this includes:
Transport to and from Jerusalem
All meals from arrival until departure
Camping equipment (including sleeping bag)
A fully licensed tour guide
A guard and medic
Insurance up until $2 million dollars
According to the Israeli office of the UNHCR, currently about 7,500 asylum seekers are located in Israel. More than 5000 of them are from Sudan and Eritrea. Several hundreds are from the Ivory Coast and Congo with smaller numbers from Nigeria, Ghana, Somalia, Guinea and other African countries. Out of the 7,500, some 2,000 crossed the border with Egypt since January 1, 2008.
In August 2007, the Israeli authorities opened a detention camp at Ketziot prison, capable of absorbing up to 1,000 refugees. Since this time, most newcomers including men, women and children, have been placed in this facility. Currently, 1,000 refugees are being held in Ketziot prison, many of whom are from Sudan while others are from Eritrea and the Ivory Coast. Among the detainees are 100 children and 18 infants (the youngest born in late December). They are being held in large, overcrowded tents lacking hot water.
In recent weeks…
Despite renewing the policy of detention, this did not sufficiently deter refugees from entering Israel. The Israeli government estimates that during the first two months of 2008 alone, over 2,000 Africans crossed the border. Thus, they employed a new strategy.
In late February, the Israeli police initiated a wide-scale program of round-ups and arrests. The Prison Service was instructed to free over 2,000 places in detention while the Ministry of Interior, police and other government agencies were to prepare for mass deportations. The operation's initiation took place on February 25 when police raided three Tel Aviv shelters and arrested 250 refugees. Some held work permits while others had temporary protection papers. In the following days, additional arrests took place in Israel's south. Most of the refugees were photographed, fingerprinted and released on the same day. Israeli citizens were not immune; three activists were also detained. The Israeli office of the UNHCR issued a strongly worded condemnation of this campaign.
We hope you will join us in these efforts.
Further Further Background
Southern Sudan & Darfur
Sudan has been in a state of civil war for many years, with long-running conflicts between various ethnic groups. Since 1983, a civil war between North and South Sudan has displaced more than 4 million southerners and has resulted in the death of 1.9 million people. Unable to grow food or earn money to feed themselves, malnutrition and starvation became widespread. Starvation and persecution has driven the refugees to other parts of Sudan such as Khartoum and neighbouring countries including Egypt.
In early 2003, a new rebellion against the central government began in the western region of Darfur. In response to accusations of neglect from residents of Darfur, the government began arming and providing technical support to militia groups entitled the Janjaweed. The Janjaweed have been wiping out communities of Muslim African tribal farmers in a genocidal campaign. To date, about 400,000 people have been killed and nearly 2 million displaced in clashes between rebel groups and the government. Here also, refugees are fleeing for their lives, primarily to Chad (228,836 refugees) and Uganda (212,857) with some 13,446 Sudanese seeking safety in Egypt.
In Egypt, the situation of Sudanese refugees, both from the South and Darfur, is dire. They lack basic rights, are on the verge of starvation, and suffer from frequent harassment by the authorities. During a protest in December 2005, 27 were killed by the Egyptian police, while many others were injured. Six hundred and fifty refugees were detained while Egypt announced it planned to deport them back to Sudan. Only as a result of international pressure, was this deportation plan withdrawn.
As a result of Egypt’s failure to grant Sudanese proper protection, many have decided to attempt the dangerous trek to Israel. Those lucky enough to collect the funds required by smugglers, then risk being shot and killed by the Egyptian police while crossing the border. Once in Israel, they surrender themselves to passing army patrols who arrest them as illegal aliens.
Currently, about 2,500 Sudanese asylum seekers are in Israel. About 750 are survivors of genocide from the Darfur region while virtually all of the rest are Christians from South Sudan. Most of the refugees are young men however about 150 families (including approximately 400 children) and an estimated 100 unaccompanied minors (including 30 under the age of 16) are also located here.
The government refuses to allow refugees from Sudan access to the established asylum procedure. It bases its refusal on the fact that they are allegedly from an "enemy country" and therefore are presumed to be "dangerous to State security." The status of being from an "enemy nation" is inclusive; the State does not check individual cases to verify that they are actually dangerous in any way.
The treatment of Sudanese in Israel contrasts with the way Israel handles asylum applications from other nationalities. Recognized refugees in Israel are released from prison and granted work and stay permits as well as social benefits. Asylum seekers whose cases are in the process of review and whose requests are not summarily denied, are similarly released and given temporary work permits.
A total of 2,500 Sudanese refugees are currently located in Israel. On September 23, 2007, the government announced that it would grant temporary residency status to the 500 refugees from Darfur who were in the country on that date with the intention of deporting the rest to Egypt. In fact, 450 received such status in January while another 150 are expected to be approved as well. This temporary residency status, was granted following a government decision according to a United Nations recommendation. These refugees received a temporary resident ID which grants them and their children a legal work permit, medical insurance, and six months later – social benefits as well.
The rest, including an additional 150 from Darfur, have deportation orders. None have received official work permits or are entitled to social benefits, and their right to find employers has now been called into question. Their long-term fate remains unknown with the futures of those from South Sudan being particularly in question. Although the UNHCR is examining the refugees' cases.
In 1991, following 30 years of civil war with Ethiopia, Eritrea became an independent State. Since that time, Eritrea has engaged in a succession of conflicts with its neighbours. Due to this constant state of unrest, and a small population base, the government instituted a policy of mandatory army conscription for all men aged 18-45. Technically, they are required to perform two years of service, however this can and usually is prolonged indefinitely. Eritrea is a one-party state where opposition is banned by law. There are no protests and no strikes, and anyone suspected of political activity may find himself in jail. Eritrea has no free press, the media is entirely government owned or supervised, and foreign correspondents were even expelled several years ago.
Young men are not entitled to work or study prior to serving in the army and many face discrimination during this forced service. Despite the danger to themselves and their families, many choose to defect and flee the country. Those that manage to reach Egypt, like Sudanese, face grinding poverty, harassment and discrimination.
Many therefore attempt the long journey to the Israeli border… Because Eritrea has an embassy in Israel, the refugees are doubly cautious and suspicious, lest information they give is leaked and relatives still there are punished because of the refugees' flight.
2,000 refugees from Eritrea received work permits in Israel, for "humanitarian" reasons according to the government, but not as refugees. These people escaped the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, but diplomatic sources say that Israel refuses to recognize them as refugees due to the Jewish state's good relations with both African countries. The stay permits are only given to those who infiltrated Israel from Eritrea by December 25, 2007. Officially, all those who arrived after that date are considered illegal residents.
 All numbers are taken from the UNHCR 2006 statistical report.