40 Rabbis Plan Shavuot Vigil for Detained Africans

More than 40 rabbis from all streams of Judaism will hold a prayer vigil and pre-Shavuot study session at the Holot detention center for African immigrants.

The program, organized by leaders in Rabbis for Human Rights, and supported by the New Israel Fund, was scheduled for Wednesday outside the open-detention facility in the Negev Desert.

The event was scheduled, according to organizers, “to mark Shavuot, our turning point from freed slaves to a nation in covenant with God, by demanding that Israel honor our most commanded mitzvah,” citing Leviticus 19:33-34 which calls on Jews to love the stranger.

The date also was chosen because 12 of the detainees are facing immediate deportation, according to Haaretz.

Rabbi Nava Hefetz, educational director of Rabbis for Human Rights, and Rabbi Susan Silverman, planned the vigil.

”God repeated the commandment to protect the stranger at least thirty-six times because it’s a really hard thing to do. Now that we are in our own land, it is something that takes real faith in God, and embracing discomfort — in a way that keeping kosher or Shabbat does not. But it is the real test of the Jewish soul. In that way, the refugees hold up a mirror to our inner character. And they give us an opportunity to rise to our highest selves,” the organizers wrote in promoting the event.

Some 42,000 Eritrean and Sudanese citizens are living in Israel, with 2,000 in the Holot detention facility, where residents are required to check in twice a day. Many have made their home in south Tel Aviv.

Israel has granted official refugee status to just four of more than 5,500 official asylum seekers.

Over 9,000 African migrants have left Israel in the last two years in voluntary departures, according to Haaretz. The Israeli government provided them with airplane tickets and grants.

Author

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

40 Rabbis Plan Shavuot Vigil for Detained Africans

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close