On a bed in his tiny shared apartment in Tel Aviv, Mekonen Kefete bares his right leg to illustrate the story of his journey to Israel. It is dotted with dark black marks where red-hot iron bars were cruelly poked into his skin. Kefete, 26, fled his native Eritrea a little more than a year ago, destination unknown, to escape an open-ended draft in the country’s army. After the eight-hour trek from Eritrea to Sudan, he related, traffickers forcibly detained him, ordered him to pay $500, decided that his destination was Egypt’s border with Israel and said they were taking him there.25
Renaming a street in a tiny French village should have been of no consequence to anyone other than its inhabitants. But when the municipal council of Tremblois-lès-Carignan (population 115) in the Ardennes region voted to change the name of Rue Pétain to Rue de Belle-Croix, it marked the end of an era. Theirs was the last street in France named for the white-mustachioed Marshal Philippe Pétain, hero of Verdun in the Great War.3
Early one morning in the late 1940s, an elderly Ethiopian Jew stood with his young grandson at the top of a small mountain, waiting for sunrise. As the sun broke over the horizon, the old man, pointing toward the sun, said, “Remember, this is the way to Jerusalem.” That young boy was Baruch Tegegne, who died in Israel on December 27 after a long illness. He was 65 years old and, upon his death, could look back to see tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews whose journey to Israel took the path he blazed.38
Judging by a flurry of recent declarations, it is likely that early 2011 will see growing demands from the international community for Egypt to take action to halt the abduction, abuse and trafficking of Africans on its territory in Sinai. But some experts strongly doubt that Egypt will pay much attention. “In general, the Egyptians are not at all responsive to outside pressure in areas like human rights,” Mark Heller, a Middle East expert at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, told the Forward.
A tug-of-war is taking place over the government’s attempt to impose a core curriculum in ultra-Orthodox elementary and high schools, and it’s not just about education. It cuts to the heart of a bitter conflict within Israeli society on the issue of authority. Israel’s Education Ministry has launched a zero-tolerance policy aimed at Haredi schools that refuse to teach the ministry’s prescribed secular studies curriculum.3
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