Rami Gudovitch: Israeli Activist for Refugee Rights (Part 1)

Dear readers of ProMosaik e.V., 
Rami Gudovitch is a philosophy instructor and an
activist for refugee rights from Israel.
Rami had sent me this interesting annual report about the
Come True project, an education project he runs in Uganda with South Sudanese
kids deported from Israel:
Following this link you can read the whole report:
(link to the report)
In the following you can read Rami’s story to
understand why and how he helps refugees in and outside Israel.

“I am exited to accept the invitation to share my thoughts and experiences with
the readers of ProMosaik e.V. The ProMosaik e.V is known for its struggle for
equal rights for all human beings and for refugee rights and for a society
without racial, cultural, and religious discrimination. To a large extend, the
official state of Israel seems to have forgotten, in this sad moment of
history, many of the moral commitments that underlay its foundation and its
existence. But there is also something else in Israel that I believe is rather
unique. Many people in Israel oppose and struggle to stop the racial
discrimination of African refugees and asylum seekers in Israel, as they
struggle against the discrimination and mistreatment of other communities. I
hope the following paragraphs would give a glimpse of this “other side” of

In the following paragraphs, I would like to give some of my thoughts and
impressions following the recent 8 years, years that I had spent much of coming
to know the rich and diverse communities of African refugees living in Israel.
In my training, I am an analytic philosopher. I
received my PhD from Columbia University on 2007, that is, around 18 months
after the Massacre at the Mustafa Mahmoud Square, in Cairo, an event that
signifies the beginning of immigration of refugees into Israel. In the course
of the massacre, officers of the Egyptian police killed over 70 Sudanese
refugees, most of which, women and children, in an attempt to break a peaceful
protest in front of the UNHCR headquarter. But at the time, I knew nothing of
that.  In fact, I knew little about
Africa, about refugees or about Sudan and Eritrea. Though an Israeli of Jewish
origins, my family immigrated to Israel/Palestine long before the holocaust.
From my mother’s side, our roots extend back to the early 18th
century, and my ancestors lived in Jerusalm and in Nablus at least as early as
that period.
My bonding with the refugee community comes from
the development of personal ties with many community members I met in Tel Aviv
and from a universal moral commitment that I feel is part of my Jewish-Israeli
heritage. Upon my return to Israel from my studies I found myself living in
South Tel Aviv, surrounded by refugees and other migrant communities. I started
engaging in various volunteering activities utilising my skills and experience
of many years of working with youth of various underprivileged communities.
When the government of Israel had issued a deportation order to the South
Sudanese community, following the declaration of the independence of South
Sudan, I initiated a public struggle against the deportation. Sadly our voices
were too weak to combat the racist wave flooding the country and although it was
clear that South Sudan was not ready to receive safely the 500 children and
their families, that then, were living and studying in Israel, due to
catastrophic humanitarian condition and lack of education solution, the
deportation went on. Now, try imagining what would you do if you find a student
of yours in a trouble. Now try imagining what would you do if you find that dozens
of students of yours have lost any sense of personal, educational and even
nutritional security? For me, I had little doubt what my reaction should be. I
knew I had to do anything within my power in order to increase the kids’
chances to fulfil the rights any child in the world has: the right for
education and security. Together with Adv. Lea Miller Forstat I initiated
Come True  project, under BECOME NGO, a sponsorship program
presently funding the education of 119 South Sudanese children deported from
Israel, for the 3rd year, in a boarding school in Kampala, Uganda.
In recent months we have made our first steps, albeit the unstable political
situation, security threats and the humanitarian crisis in order to extend our
education projects from Uganda into South Sudan, while our end goal- building a
school in South Sudan is starting to look like a realistic future plan, rather
than merely a dream. But this project and these dreams exist in a harsh
reality, against all odds. On December, 2013, a civil war broke in South Sudan,
killing, thus far, over 100,000 people of a nation of just over 8 millions.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the fighting renew in a major part of the country
and many atrocities were reported by locals as well as human right
organizations, many of them involving mass murder cases and mass rapes of women
young girls.
Let me go back to the general issue of refugees in
Israel. I believe the refugee crisis in the world is one of the major crises of
the present period in history. I believe it is the responsibility of each and
every one of us to make his or her effort to make the lives of refugees
bearable and to give hope to the hopeless. My country, Israel, was formed by
refugees fleeing from the Nazis while the world turned its back to them. When
African refugees came to seek asylum in Israel, I realised it is my obligation,
as a citizen and as a human being, to make anything that is within my power, as
an educator, as a voter and as a human being, to take my share in the struggle
for the rights of refugees and for anything that would make their lives possible. 
What are the causes of the racist wave flooding
Israel? To be honest, I don’t know. Fear of the unknown? The refusal to admit
that someone else could be the one in trouble, the one struggling for his life?
I wish I had something smart to say. Honestly, it is beyond the scope of my
understanding how people could turn their backs to other fellow human beings.
The unapologetic scales of racism in present Israel, directed against people who
are fleeing for their lives is something beyond my comprehension. But still, it
should be emphasised that as much as there is racism in Israel, there is also a
contrary trend. The lives of refugee children in Israel are not bad, socially
and emotionally speaking, in comparison to the lives of refugee children in
other countries. From my observation, refugee kids integrate into society
better than in many other western countries. The Israeli society is highly
experienced in accepting and integrating immigrants and African refugees are of
no exception. There are two trends in Israel that somehow live side by side.
The problem is that the first, racist one is presently, stronger. In fact, it
is strong enough to win elections and to form a government without a serious
My own activities with the refugees are not limited to
the borders of Israel. Many of the refugees in Israel end up, under various,
mostly unhappy circumstances, in other countries, such as Uganda, Egypt, Sudan
and South Sudan. Let me return to the case of South Sudan. There are two groups
of refugees from Israel that find themselves in South Sudan (or stop by in
South Sudan). The first is, of course, the South Sudanese former refugees that
were deported from Israel. I already told some of their story above. The second
are people who have been deported from Israel to a “third” country (meaning,
not to their country of origins) as a result of pressure Israel is making to
push all African refugees from Israel to leave Isarel, under the threat of
indefinite detention. The agreements between Israel and the African countries
who are willing to accept the refugees have been shown by various international
and local human rights organisations to be illegal, in the sense that they
violate the obligation Israel is committed to by the refugees’ convention, to
protect the rights and the security of refugees within its boarders. Israeli Government
members are also personally involved in an attempt to nourish the racist wave that
is flooding the country and they do so using manners that might awake the
memory of a German reader as just over 70 years ago such manners of speech were
directed towards Jews in Germany. For example, the new Israeli Culture Minister
Mrs. Miri Regeve had publically referred to African refugees as “cancer”. Anyway,
this group of refugees being deported to a third country, mostly Eritreans and
Sudanese (Northern Sudanese) end up finding themselves in a limbo as they are
not allowed and have no way to survive in the countries they are being deported
to, mostly Rwanda and Uganda. In fact, to most part, in these countries their
rights and safety are not protected. Basically, they are doomed to fall prey
again, to chains of human traffickers that do anything to squeeze any penny
from them and from their families. South Sudan is one of the first stops in the
route traffickers are leading them through, on the long and deadly voyage to
fulfil the dream of getting freedom and security in a western county. From
Juba, the capital of South Sudan, they continue to Khartoum, and then, to
Libya, from where they continue on dangerous, overcrowded boats to Italy. On
the way, many of them are being kidnapped and detained by traffickers till
their families collect more money to pay more ransom to the traffickers. 
Thus, East African refugees, from Eritrea and from
Sudan find themselves in a limbo. While in Israel they enjoy a relative safety.
Once back in African, most without any legal status they have no hope or scope
and they join the tragic mass of millions nameless people whose lives and dignity
are disregarded by most rich countries and the only chances for them to get
noticed is once they are recognised as “a demographic threat”
threatening to invade Europe. These people deserve help. Of course, the help
they deserve is not a personal help. It is a global, political solution and it
must involve an international collaboration to fight the atrocities they are
fleeing from in their home countries and to struggle for a more tolerant world.
As a person of Jewish origins I am confident that it
is the responsibility of the citizens of the world to protect refugees. I can
testify that in Israel, every single European person who was recognized as
joining the risky struggle to protect and assist Jewish refugees in the Second
World War is been remembered by the survivors and their families and
friends.  Helping refugees is a moral opportunity of the highest
If I can offer my advice to the government of Israel:
take your share. Protect the refugees presently within your boarders. Give them
rights. If Israel wish the Eritreans refugees, forming over 85% of the refugees
in Israel, to return to Eritrea, first it must stop supporting the Eritrean
dictatorship. You are toying with human lives and thus, risking your moral
stability. This lesson is applicable not merely to the Israeli government but
to many governments in Europe and in other parts of the world. Take the
Australian government, for example, and sadly, even the British government in
recent months. Something has gone wrong and it is an urgent wake up call of our
time to change it. 
I would like to end by making a more general comment,
as an educator. Personally, I can say that the role I have taken as an educator
within a multicultural community, I came to believe that the development of
extremist groups among immigrant youth around the world as well as the racist
wave that is flooding many Westerns are two recent outcomes of the same wound,
which is the lack of resources, skills and knowledge necessary for a successful
integration of immigrants within a new environments. What underlies the
education programs I am leading is an attempt to use agents from different
groups, the immigrants (refugees in the cases we are working with) and the
local communities, in the aim of developing a more successful integration of
refugees and other immigrates, while minimising common fears and negative
affects resulting from the immigration. Immigration is a fact in contemporary
global reality. It will not chance by building walls, bombing boats or becoming
more racists. If there was a way to enclose all refugees within the borders
they are trying to break, taking that way would have made the world a place not
worthy of living. Demeaning humanity has  limits.  I believe that there is another
way, or at least a better way and with the help of some great people from
different communities within African and outside, I believe that we can make a
difference. You are all welcome to join us by supporting, by sharing your ideas
and by spreading our word.” 
ProMosaik e.V. is convinced that Judaism is a religion
focusing on ethical responsibility for the Other. The principle expressed by
Hillel for us is the essence of Judaic ethics:
„What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow:
this is the whole Torah.“

And this is the basic principle Israel must adopt in
its refugee politics.
In the following we would like to present some of Rami’s
photos from the Come True project in Uganda. The kids in the pictures lived in
Israel for long years and they speak fluent Hebrew with Rami as well as among

(Part 2 following)

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ProMosaik e.V.