Seeking Asylum in Israel
Yesterday, Israel’s Supreme Court struck down the Third Amendment to the Law for the Prevention of Infiltration. This amendment, originally passed in January 2012, had allowed the government to detain asylum seekers for up to three years without charges. This is a momentous decision, which will result in hundreds of men, women and children being moved out of detention centers. Their release, however, will not be immediate, as the court decision allowed the Interior Ministry 90 days to examine inmates’ statuses.
More than 50,000 asylum seekers have entered Israel since 2006. Many of these asylum seekers have fled from conflict zones in Africa, including Eritrea and Darfur where political repression and civil strife are prominent.
There are some members of the Israeli government who expressed disappointment in today’s decision. Some Members of Knesset felt that this decision harmed Israeli citizens and “legitimized the phenomenon of infiltration,” while others felt that this decision treated asylum seekers humanely and honored the spirit of Israeli values by prioritizing human rights of even those who are not citizens of Israel.
Our tradition teaches us that we should love and care for the strangers in our midst: “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34). We are commanded to be concerned about the strangers among us because we are intimately familiar with what it means to be strangers. This commandment is not easy to uphold, but today’s decision by the Israeli Supreme Court is a step in the right direction.
Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz.