Monday, August 6, 2012

For You Were Strangers In The Land Of Egypt--Parashat Eikev


“You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19)

For many years, the Arabs in Sudan lived peacefully alongside the native Africans in the region. After a severe drought in the ‘80’s, the situation became desperate, and the African villages were often attacked by government forces. Living on the constant threat of harassment, persecution, and violence, refugees fled in massive numbers to Egypt and then to Israel. They crossed the Sinai on a harrowing journey, led by Bedouin guides, who charged huge amounts for their services. According to a 1954 Israeli law, all infiltrators from enemy states, such as Sudan, must be imprisoned, until their refugee status can be confirmed. Many refugees were sent back to Egypt, where they faced deportation back to Sudan. Those that were allowed to stay in Israel were met with poor living conditions, unemployment and prejudice.
So much for remembering.
Doesn’t the Torah teach the concept of ethical responsibility, and recalling our struggles in Egypt….and we’re told that because of our past we aren’t allowed to mistreat strangers? With 1,200 refugees entering Israel each month, could the Israeli government be reacting out of fear?
Prime Minister Netanyahu has come up with a whole series of plans to offer refugees “temporary protection”, but what about mistreatment?  Has Israel really considered the rights of those that are seeking freedom,too?
We that have known suffering, are in a position to help those who are in need. Its not only the right thing to do, but ignoring it, would be unethical. We were strangers in the Land of Egypt, and we are obligated to help any stranger needing to escape their home. Who else should know better?

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