Junior Journey: A Day of Conflicts and Paradoxes

Rabbi Dean Kertesz, Co-Dean of Students
On the Juniors' last day in Tel Aviv, they spent met with refugees from Darfur and explored the issue of non-Jews who come to the State of Israel.
Monday morning was our last day in Tel Aviv and we spent it exploring the issue of non-Jews who come to the State of Israel.

These are primarily two different populations: temporary workers, mostly from the Philippines who work in elder care and Thais who work in agriculture. These workers are granted temporary visas which allow them to work in Israel for five years. Then they must return to their native country. But many do not and remain in Israel illegally. The other population are from Africa, mostly the Darfur region of Sudan and Eritrea. These people are mostly male and are fleeing civil war and dictatorial governments. They risk their lives crossing Africa to come to Israel because they know it is safe. Israel does not grant them refugee status, but temporary status, which does not entitle them to work.

Our students took a tour of the neighborhood in South Tel Aviv where many of these communities live, led by a man who works in the field of refugee rights and resettlement. We also heard from two refugees from Darfur who fled to Israel. Their stories of danger, flight, and refuge in Israel were very moving. This issue cuts to the heart of the purpose of Israel. Is it a state for Jews only? Can non-Jews be absorbed successfully into Israeli society? How many refugees can Israel accept? 
After our time learning about this important issue we boarded our bus and headed south to the desert. We took a beautiful hike to the top of the Small Fin that offers breath taking views of the Rimon crater. During a rest stop we explored the question of why Torah was given in the desert. 

At the end of our hike three students offered two poems in Hebrew about the desert and its impact of those who live on it.
We ended our day in the development town of Yerucham, being hosted by one of the Culinary Queens of the city. Culinary Queens is one of the unique programs Yerucham is sponsoring to bring development to the city. Local women cook their native dishes and invite groups to learn about their aliyah and their experience adapting to Israeli life. Our hostess was originally from Casablanca, Morrocco. She had prepared a delicious Moroccan meal and while we ate, she told us her story of immigrating to and successfully integrating into Israeli life.
Now we are at the Masada Youth Hostel, and there is an almost full moon illuminating the Dead Sea. Tomorrow we climb Masada.
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