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African Refugees Plead for Israel’s Understanding

Following a recent wave of violent crime in Tel Aviv, tensions between African asylum seekers living in south Tel Aviv and their Israeli neighbors have deteriorated considerably.

The arrests of Eritrean asylum seekers in connection with two highly publicized rape cases, along with aggressive statements by Israeli politicians, have made an already tense situation especially volatile.

In an attempt to defuse the tension, a number of African asylum seekers have written open “letters to the Israeli people,” with the help of Mesila, an aid center for foreign workers and refugees run by the Tel Aviv municipality. In the letters, the asylum seekers seek to tell their stories in their own words, while attempting to disassociate their community from acts of crime and violence.

“I have two kids and a beautiful wife whom I love,” wrote Koneeh Vayabatee, a 35-year-old asylum seeker from Liberia who has lived in Israel for the past decade, in one letter. “I wouldn’t let anyone harm her or them, or anyone else’s children in this country. I empathize with the victim of the rape, and her family.”

For more, go to Haaretz.com

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