יום חמישי 25 ינואר 2018
As you may know, the issue of the asylum seekers in Israel, and the Government of Israel's decision to "deport" them to African countries has become a highly charged issue with coverage throughout the media. The Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) led by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) and its legal department prepared a detailed summery and position paper on the issue including background, history, legal issues, social issues, and relevant Jewish sources. Additionally potential actions by congregations and individuals are outlined.
In this position paper the IMPJ calls clearly on the government of Israel to withdraw from its present decision to deport asylum seekers to African countries while reaffirming Israel's right as a sovereign democracy to decide on its immigration policies. The position paper and background was discussed in depth over the past few days in the IMPJ by the IRAC steering committee and the Executive Board of the IMPJ.
The detailed position and background paper was sent out today in Hebrew to the IMPJ leadership and public signed by Rabbi Gilad Kariv, President and CEO of the IMPJ, Reuven Marko, Chairman of the IMPJ, Rabbi Noa Sattath Director of the IRAC, and Rabbi Professor Yehudiya Amir Chairman of Maram, the Israel Council of Reform Rabbis.
Below you will find a short statement which summarizes the IMPJ policy on the issue. By early next week we will make a full translation of the full paper referred to above available to you.
The Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism to the Government of Israel:
“Deportation of asylum seekers goes against the core values of the State of Israel and Jewish tradition”
“This action will not relieve the distress of the residents of South Tel Aviv and will bring moral disgrace on Israeli society”
“Learning is greater, for learning leads to action” (Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 40b)
The IMPJ urges the Israeli Government to withdraw its plan to deport asylum seekers to third countries in Africa. Instead, the Government should prepare a proper and proportionate plan for coping with this migration, consistent with Israel’s values as a Jewish and democratic state; with the sensitivity of Jewish tradition to the stranger and the refugee; and in accord with international law. This plan should also provide a proper response to the social distress facing the neighborhoods of south Tel Aviv and other areas.
Among other components, this plan should ensure a genuine and viable possibility to submit asylum applications for all those interested in so doing; rapid and thorough examination of the applications; approval of applications at a rate comparable to other countries around the world; the granting of status to asylum seekers who have been in Israel for many years and for minor (children) asylum seekers; and ensuring basic services in the fields of education, health, and welfare. The forced departure of asylum seekers to undemocratic countries that fail to provide firm and public guarantees ensuring that the deportees will receive status, and will be ensured a dignified existence in the target country is not worthy to be included in such a plan.
The IMPJ will act to promote and implement this position in the public, legal, and media arenas. It will promote cooperation with other civil society organizations in Israel that maintain similar positions, and are committed to Israel’s values as a Jewish and democratic state. It will also act in cooperation with bodies around the Jewish world, within and beyond the Reform movement. At the same time, the IMPJ will continue its ongoing efforts to empower weakened sectors of Israeli society, and to improve the Government’s response to social distress and social and economic gaps.
The IMPJ urges its congregations, institutions, leaders, and members to take the following steps:
• To study this issue, including relevant Jewish sources, and to hold discussions in the congregations.
• To speak out on the congregational and rabbinical levels in the spirit of the IMPJ’s position.
• To help as individuals and as congregations in practical actions, such as aiding asylum seekers to prepare and submit applications.
• To raise financial donations for Israeli organizations involved in helping asylum seekers.
• To participate in public and civil activities to protest the Government’s plan, with the goal of encouraging policy change through proper democratic means.
• To increase substantially individual and congregational efforts to strengthen Israeli society, promote social solidarity, restore the social responsibility of the Israeli Government, and empower disadvantaged populations.
“Rav Simlai expounded: Torah begins with an act of benevolence and ends with an act of benevolence” (Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 14a)