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Between Tel Aviv and Holot: Open jail splits refugee family

Six years after he fled Eritrea for Israel, Aman has found himself living in Holot – an ‘open detention center’ built by the Israeli government for African asylum seekers. His wife and his daughter, on the other hand, were left behind in Tel Aviv and are not permitted to live with him.

By Ayla Peggy Adler 

Aman and his wife Elsa, Holot 'open detention center.' (photo: Ayla Peggy Adler)

Aman and his wife Elsa, Holot ‘open detention center.’ (photo: Ayla Peggy Adler)

When Aman, who has been sitting in Israeli prisons for over two years, was moved to the new Holot “open detention center,” he was told he was no longer a prisoner, but a resident.  That got him thinking. “If I’m a resident, then my wife, Elsa, and (eight-year-old) daughter, Dahab, should be able to live with me,” he said when I visited earlier this week. Inspired by this logic, Elsa and Dahab packed a bag from Tel Aviv and came to Holot with the intention of moving in. If they weren’t permitted to live on the inside, they hoped, at least, to live in a tent on the surrounding grounds. However, they were not given permission to do either; in fact, the two have never even made it past the front gate to see Aman’s living quarters. Instead, they’ve been traveling back and forth between Tel Aviv and Holot by bus, four times this week alone. Is that a way to treat a community resident?

“Today is six years since I arrived in Israel,” Aman told me. “The exact date.”

“Mazal tov,” I said.

I’d brought an Eritrean friend, “W,” who had come to help me translate, as well his friend, Abraham, an Eritrean asylum-seeker who is living in fear of Holot and had jumped on the opportunity to come see for himself.

Read more: Photo diary from inside Israel’s ‘Holot’ detention center

When we arrived, Aman and his family were sitting just outside security along with 20 or so other prisoners — all seemingly new since I didn’t recognize them from previous visits — and some Israelis, Ronit and Tamar, who had driven down from Jerusalem to drop off their friend who’d received the dreaded orders. Aman confirmed that while there had been about 130 prisoners when we’d visited just a few weeks earlier, now there were hundreds more and counting, ten per room. Many of the new guys seemed younger to me. “Young, old,” Aman said. “They’re bringing everyone.”

Aman's daughter, Dahab, at the Holot 'open detention center.' (photo: Ayla Pegg Adler)

Aman’s daughter, Dahab, at the Holot ‘open detention center.’ (photo: Ayla Pegg Adler)

Ronit and Tamar asked Dahab what level of Hebrew she was in and she told them: Gimel.  I — a Jewish American living here with citizenship — am Aleph-plus. If I spoke Hebrew, Dahab and I would have done just fine without a translator. In Hebrew, Ronit and Tamar asked Aman many questions about life inside; they were worried for their friend. In response to their questions about medical care, Aman told them that there was a building that appeared like a health clinic, complete with a Magen David Adom sign, but inside it was always empty. “Holotwood,” he called it.

Frustrations were running high as people felt they’d reached an indefinite dead end and that Israeli government officials didn’t see them as human beings. The previous week, there had been no food one day until 3 p.m. and fights broke out, resulting in a guard punching a prisoner in the face and breaking his teeth. Aman said they’d complained to the “Big Man,” Albert, who is in charge of all three prisons, all off the same road: Ketziot (which they refer to as the “Palestinian Prison”), Saharonim (the other prison for African asylum seekers) and Holot, the “open facility,” though men who’ve lived in both said they were no more free in Holot and that the conditions in Saharonim were preferable. When Albert heard of the skipped meals, Aman told me he’d said, “What — back home you only ate one or two times a week; here you eat every day. What do you want?”

But the reason people are leaving Eritrea is not hunger; it’s a dictatorship that imprisons and tortures citizens at will. If he could live in Eritrea with freedom and safety, W told me there was no place he would rather live; it was home. I have heard this from every African asylum seeker I have talked to, including my dear friend, Tsehaye, who has been granted asylum in the United States with his wife and children. What was W supposed to do now, he asked me; go back to the place from which he’d escaped with bullets at his back?

W and I met when he was earning his Masters degree in ecology at the Jacob Blaustein Desert Research Institute, after world-renowned elephant specialist and conservationist Israeli professor Jeheskel “Hezy” Shoshani, who taught at the now-defunct University of Asmara in Eritrea, recommended he apply. The Eritrean government closed the university when students held protests against the dictatorship, making it impossible for citizens to choose their own field of study. To get out of Eritrea and obtain a visa to fly to Israel, W had had to risk his life like everyone else, sneaking across the border at night. Unlike most, however, he entered Israel legally, through the airport. But now that he’s graduated, his student visa has expired and he has no place to go next. He can’t stay, can’t get a visa to another country, and can’t return. To top it off, his Israeli advocate, Shoshani, was killed in a 2008 terrorist attack in Addis Ababa when a minibus exploded, after W had come to Israel.  When I asked W if he was afraid that he, too, could get rounded up on the streets of Tel Aviv and put in Holot, he said, of course. I mentioned that he had a different status than the others and could prove this with papers, but this was no comfort to W, since with Holot, Israel is breaking all kinds of international law.

Eritrean prisoners at the Holot 'open detention center'. (photo: Ayla Peggy Adler)

Eritrean prisoners at the Holot ‘open detention center’. (photo: Ayla Peggy Adler)

Elsa had traveled with a backpack larger than herself as well as with Dahab, who was now sitting quietly beside Aman. They’ve been living off dwindled savings Aman earned in the Timna copper mines where he’d worked for a Mexican company. Mexican, in the Arava.  Because what would a border crossing story be without Mexico. Of course Elsa can’t work now because of the crackdown on Israelis hiring asylum seekers, and almost no asylum seekers are granted the refugee status that could give them the right to work temporarily. They’re utterly stuck.

As we drove out of Holot, W said, “it looks exactly like the military camp in Eritrea” (where men do constant, mandatory service until they’re 55, making it impossible for them to have any other life). “Exactly the same! The only difference is that in Eritrea, the fence is wood,” he said, looking out at the high, thick metal topped with barbed wire.

They didn’t know whom to trust now, W told me. The government was using Jewish Ethiopian citizens, who speak their language, against them. I knew this from Aman as well:  the Israeli immigration officers at Holot were all Ethiopian. One had said to him, “why did you come here?” When Aman answered about why he’d fled, she had said, “no, why did you come here to Israel; this is a Jewish country.”

I asked Abraham if he was happy he’d come. He was absolutely happy he’d seen for himself, he told me, though Holot was even worse than he’d feared; there was nothing open about it.

Dahab had fallen asleep on my dog the minute we’d entered the car. We woke her only when it was time to haul the backpack out of the trunk so she and Elsa could get on the bus, again. Were they even unpacking between visits? When I asked Aman if they’d be coming back in the next few days, he looked off. “I don’t know,” he said. “They’re very tired. We’ll see.”

For more +972 :
Photo diary: Inside Israel’s ‘Holot’ detention center for asylum seekers
The origins and politics of Israel’s refugee debate

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    1. Rehmat

      Racism comes in many shapes and colors. Take for example, Ethiopian Falasha Jews, who were flown into Israel from Ethiopia and Sudan over 20 years ago with great fanfare – as a ”Jewish humanitarian” gesture, are now being treated like untouchable in Israel.

      http://rehmat1.com/2013/02/09/israeli-jews-hate-black-people/

      Reply to Comment
      • Ayla

        Rehmat–Your use of the term “untouchables” is confusing; it usually means beyond reproach. If I hadn’t looked at your link, I wouldn’t realize that. Yet I’m pretty sure you haven’t read this piece, on which you’re posting to your own blog, since you aren’t addressing the information about some Ethiopian Jews in the piece. Also, “falashah” is a derogatory term, literally meaning “stranger” in amharic, that was used against Jewish Ethiopians in Ethiopia. No Jewish Ethiopian uses this term to describe themselves. I’m sure you’d want to know that since your piece is sympathetic to them, or at least unsympathetic to people against them. I’m curious, do you know any Ethiopian jews? Wondering since you’ve written a whole blog piece (however anonymously–why is that?) about them. I will end with a heartwarming post about some Ethiopian Israeli women protesting to protect African asylum seekers in Israel, since we really can’t generalize about people, (ie “Jews” and “Blacks” in your piece, which conveniently omits the whole history of jewish civil rights fighters in the U.S., some who died for the cause). http://972mag.com/nstt_feeditem/photo-ethiopian-israeli-women-attempt-to-protect-asylum-seekers-are-accosted-by-israeli-nationalists/

        Reply to Comment
        • Rehmat

          @Alya

          “Falashah” is not more “derogatory term” than non-Jews being called “antisemites”. FYI, there are more Semite peoples among Muslims and Christians than Jews.

          The “untouchable” stands for people who’re treated like 3rd or 4th class citizens in a country. According to some Israeli sources, there are 350,000 Jews in Israel who cannot find a rabbi to perform their marriages because they don’t have the proof that they’re born to a Jewish mother.

          Yes, there are Zionist-Jewish controlled human rights groups in the United States, such as ADL, ACLU and HRW, which are in fact Israel’s lobby groups.

          http://rehmat1.com/2009/08/08/350000-harijan-jews-in-israel/

          Reply to Comment
          • Ayla

            Rehmat–none of your comments–some which are pretty off-the-wall (who in their right mind would equate ‘non-jewish’ with ‘anti-semite’?)–have anything to do with this piece. Falashah is a slur. If you want to defend Ethiopian Israelis, I’d recommend not using it. But I guess your intention isn’t to defend Ethiopian Israelis.

            Reply to Comment
          • Jah

            Ayla,

            Remhat, like every other Eritrean, is filled with hatred for Ethiopians. Eritrea separated from Ethiopia with support from Arab countries. The former rebels, now the Eritrean leaders, promised Arabs that once Eritrea separates from Ethiopia, the Red Sea will become an Arabian sea.

            What I don’t understand is why are Eritreans in Israel? Why don’t they claim refugee status in Egypt, a country that helped them with their “independence”. Ethiopian Jews know the Eritreans more than the average Israeli. So I am not surprised the government deployed them to handle the refugees.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ayla

            Jah–you’re teaching me a perspective I didn’t know, so thank you. Are you Ethiopian? Or? I also didn’t know that Rehmat was Eritrean; I can’t make heads or tails of his comments or his blog. I think he’s mostly just ranting against Israel?

            I do know one thing, which is the reason that Eritreans are here, in Israel, and not in Egypt, which you asked about: They walked until it was safe. They had no intention of coming here. Sudan was not safe. Egypt was not safe. In Egypt, many Eritreans (and Sudanese and other asylum seekers) were raped, tortured, and today–and this is very hard for me to say–some are being held basically as slaves in Sinai where their organs are being sold on the black market, from their live bodies. Even six years ago when things were not so unspeakably dark, Eritreans and others were imprisoned in Egypt just for being there (which seemed barbaric; now Israel is doing the same) and their lives were threatened if they didn’t come up with money for human smugglers, to smuggle them to the Israeli border where they were shot at by Egyptian border guards. If the Egyptian government helped Eritrea in the war of independence against Ethiopia in, what was it, 94?, as you say, that has not carried over into any kind of sense of allied nations between them as far as I know. I think from any outside position, people tend to think, hey, shouldn’t X & Y be allies? But it’s always more complicated, and often, the closer the relation, the worse the conflict. Really, we should ALL be allies, since we’re all human and we all have this planet to take care of on which we’re sharing things like, you know, water. And speaking of water, Nile water rights are currently causing conflict between Ethiopia and Egypt, and as you can imagine, Eritrea’s siding with Egypt. As for the Red Sea… That which you call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. (Whatever you call it; it’s the same). It is amazing to me, from an outside perspective, that Eritrea annexed all the land from historical Ethiopia with Red Sea access.

            Another thing I know, which you probably know, too: The enmity between Eritrea and Ethiopia is drilled into Eritrean’s heads all their lives. I know Eritreans who see now that they were brainwashed by their government, who know that Ethiopians are more or less their brothers, and I know Eritreans who believe that all Ethiopians want them dead. Maybe some do; I don’t know. I wonder if Ethiopians think so much about Eritreans one way or the other? I’ll bet they think more about that Sea…

            You’re speaking about Arabs, not of Muslims, but on a somewhat related note, I’ve heard from Eritrean friends that Christians and Muslims there got along fine in Eritrea; only the government created conflict.

            Please correct me if I’ve gotten anything wrong. Some things are a matter of right and wrong; some things are a matter of individual perspective. I’m in the business, of collecting people’s perspectives and experiences; only all together do they make up some kind of truth. It would help to know the experience from which you’re coming, Jah. Thanks so much for commenting.

            Reply to Comment
          • Wariya

            Hey Ayla, how come you didn’t post my response to your comment? I hope it is not censorship.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ayla

            Wariya–I don’t control what gets posted and what doesn’t–972 mag does, and they have a comment policy that you can read that applies to comments regardless of the subject. That said, it also could have been technical difficulty.

            Reply to Comment
          • Wariya

            Ayla, shame on you for censoring my comment. Clearly you are not interested in the truth. Shame on you also for further victimizing Bete Israel Ethiopians by blaming them for the ills of the Eritrean refugees. Bete Israel are at the bottom of the food chain. They are constant victims of racism in Israel. And you racist leftist are piling on. Disgusting.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ayla

            Wariya–if you re-read the article, you’ll see that the perspective about the Beta Israel community is coming from Eritrean asylum seekers. It’s their voice, not mine. If you read all of my comments on this thread, you’ll see some of my own perspective. I think your comment actually was posted further below, since at least one of your hateful comments did appear. Otherwise, as I said (you don’t seem to be reading, only talking), I don’t control the comments. Try pressing refresh on your computer; they are probably here, since I don’t think 972 volunteer journalists have time or energy to censor you, either.

            Reply to Comment
    2. “The previous week, there had been no food one day until 3 p.m. and fights broke out, resulting in a guard punching a prisoner in the face and breaking his teeth.” : And there will be no redress, nor punishment for the guard. Once defined as exterior to law, abuses will happen. It is hard enough to control micro behavior of authority under law. The comment about eating once a day is a lighter example.

      Such redefintion of words, “open prison,” able to leave but be back three times a day for roll call, surrounded by desert, is an infection of inhumanity, of non-personhood, which spreads to other behavior. The High Court must abolish this for the sake of legal reason.

      This false discourse has happened before. Never again.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        So, let us not redefine the words.

        We have illegal migrants who illegally crossed the border being held in a facility where their needs are provided for. They have no claim to integrate in Israel nor does Israel have any obligation to allow them to work, to set up roots, to integrate, to stay, or to achieve permanent residency or citizenship.

        They are people and they are being treated as such. People who are being housed and fed and not being expelled back to the countries they claim to have fled. This is sufficient for refugee camps around the world and this is going to have to be sufficient for them here.

        The insistence that they be given residency or a track to naturalization or given the right to work is essentially an attempt to impose immigration policy on the State of Israel. It has nothing to do with treating these people as people. Stop confusing and redefining the terms.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ayla

          Kolumn9–your comments on all the pieces regarding African asylum-seekers are consistent, and presumably, you read these primary articles before commenting, many which have, in the past, explained about international law on refugee status determination, and what it would actually mean if the asylum seekers had due process. Yet you continue to comment in ignorance. Also, the fact that you feel that keeping people housed and fed is a kindness or even an okay solution speaks to something else, which is complete and utter lack of empathy or even imagination. There’s really nothing to say to someone who feels as you do, or at least nothing that hasn’t already been said.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Ayla, disagreement is not ignorance. The articles posted here base themselves on a far-left wing interpretation of international law and relevant conventions. I am not obligated to agree with the interpretations presented. Eritreans and Sudanese who skipped one or two countries in order to enter have no claim to refugee status in Israel. Likewise they have no such claim in other countries, but other countries tend to be much more lenient with their immigration policies.

            That people are housed and fed is indeed a kindness. It is called shelter and it is provided to people who came unbidden and who illegally crossed the border. It is in fact generous. What else would you call providing food and shelter to someone that smashes the door into your house and walks in uninvited?. I have no obligation to these people. I care about these people exactly as much as I would had they never illegally crossed the border in the first place, which is not very much. And I see no moral or ethical reason why I should care more about those that cross the border than those that are in refugee camps in Ethiopia, nor do I see any reason why they deserve superior treatment than that provided to them by the humane folks at the UNHCR.

            They are leaving. Pass that on to them next time you see them. Tell them not to bother learning Hebrew because they will not need to use it for long. If you are kind you will help them seek them shelter in some other country if they don’t plan on going back to their home countries because they are not staying here.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ayla

            Kolumn9–you are wrong about whether or not these people are, and should be (according to international law) eligible for refugee status determination, and about whether or not they would likely receive refugee status if they were giving due process. If you don’t trust 972 reporting because of its leftist perspective, then go read about it in any other paper. I only read in English, so I read Ha’aretz English and the Jerusalem Post. The Jerusalem Post is right, and they write about the breach of international law the same way. I have no idea what you’re talking about with the UNHCR. I’ve interviewed several people there, and they share my perspective and actually taught me what I know about the law. As for the rest of it, that’s subjective territory.

            Reply to Comment
        • Wariya

          Israel should find a third country in Africa and dump the Eritrean illegals there. The Israelis don’t have any obligations to the economic refugees. And screw the UN. Has that piece of crap organization been fair to Israel ever?

          Reply to Comment
          • Ayla

            Wariya–If you were in charge of the State of Israel, we wouldn’t deserve our State (you know, the one the U.N. deemed a Jewish State), so thankfully, you are not. One thing that does warrant a response: you don’t get to just say “economic refugee” and make it true. It is untrue. Though personally, I feel it’s a strange line for humans to draw considering that if people are fleeing for economic reasons, those are usually pretty life-threatening reasons. However, that is not the case in relation to at least most of these asylum seekers. Wariya, this may be too much a stretch, but you might want to reflect on how your response is the same one Jews faced when they tried to flee Nazi Germany. I am not equating any other catastrophe to the Holocaust. I am equating the response to people, fleeing for their lives. Yours echoes. First they came for the…

            Reply to Comment
        • The Convention clearly states that illegal entry does not bar asylum claim; so far, the overwhelming majority have had no heard claim, with those processed as claims rather dubious. The Convention also guarantees access to the courts. In no case has any claimant had an appeal. It also guarantees the same freedom of movement generally provided to citizens once asylum is approved. It does not allow the incarceration of seekers until they can be deported somewhere, refusing all claim process until that time.

          Nor is asylum naturalization. If the conditions yielding asylum are lifted, those previously granted asylum can be deported to their homeland. In some cases, such as homosexuality, no change many ever occur, in which case they become defacto permanent residents. With the right to work. Social rights, such as health care, depend on how the accepting State treats its own.

          As to the redefinition of words, this is an attempt by the ruling coalition, or at least some agitated subset on one wants to stop, to override the High Court’s ruling based not on the Convention by Basic Law. The High Court simply said that Basic Law will not permit indefinite detention without trial, ordered the specialized prison closed, but gave three months in which the State could separate out those it wished to charge criminally. The State did absolutely nothing.

          Whether you care about these refugees or not is immaterial; whether you see no moral or ethical reason to hear the claims is immaterial. The High Court has said you cannot deport them into a situation of jeopardy, which the Convention forbids, and that you cannot detain them indefinitely without criminal cause tried in court.

          Yes, you are trapped. Abrogate the Convention and this all goes away; then you could then throw all 30,000+ into the Sinai without food or water, if you abrogate as well any signed Conventions related to genocide. I understand the problem. The US is about the only country never to have ratified the original Convention–that’s right, the savior of World War II refused to do it.

          I understand the pickle you’re in. The Africans are in a pickle too. But, irrespective of you previous warnings of, let us say, hundreds of thousands coming to the border, the border is now secure. You are not going to be savior to all. Those that are already present have created a crisis in law: namely, does the law exist even when the Knesset and Administration say otherwise. This is perhaps your first true constitutional crisis. Who decides legal reasoning? Who decides the appropriate use of words in law? Knesset or Court?

          Reply to Comment
    3. Ayla

      Beautifully put, Greg. Thank you.

      Reply to Comment
      • Seems you are an official 972 free lance journalist now. Hope that continues, if it fits your goals.

        It takes empathy and courage to do what you have done in these two posts. Courage because you face people who might later be turned out, lost to all sight, and people don’t want to confront that. I don’t know if I could. You’re filling a black spot in these events.

        Rehmat seems to be using “untouchable” as a generalization of the Indian untouchable class–which was just that; you had to be purified if you touched one, assuming you were not one yourself. You seem to have thought of the word in a holy, religious sense. Those in the untouchable class, being at the hard bottom of the Hindu caste hierarchy, often converted to Islam, upon the invasion of the latter, to escape, somewhat. But I nonetheless can not disagree with your reaction to his comments. He is on a holy war, as is the national right. Why do some keep standing in the middle, shouting “stop it!”

        Reply to Comment
    4. Ayla

      Thanks, Greg. First, yes, I realized my error re: “Untouchables” but could not bear to reengage Remat–who seems to want any excuse, however unrelated (he did not read this piece), to link to his blog. “Untouchable” the adjective means, more or less, beyond reproach, and “untouchable(s)” the noun has the Hindu origin you describe, and in this case, I must say, Rehmat was right, I was wrong. I only went to his blog because his post was confusing to me and I thought he *might* be trying to say something in defense of Ethiopian Jews, in response to my piece that paints some in a negative light from the asylum seekers’ perspective. This interested me, because of course only some Ethiopian Jews are working in immigration and assuming the attitude I described, and also because given the Ethiopian Jewish story–having been persecuted by Christian Ethiopians (who are very close, culturally and biologically, to Eritreans) and then, many, again by Sudanese in refugee camps on their journey here–I’m sympathetic to prejudices some of them have. They journeyed to Israel for refuge from the very same people who are now seeking asylum here, as well as to be in the Jewish homeland for refuge and because of their believe in the Torah. That’s all a story in and of itself, and actually my novel covers that territory. So I read Rehmat’s link to see if there was something important to which I should respond. But from what I can tell, he’s not only living in an ongoing rant, but also not a very informed one. I wish we had more informed, reasonable conservative commenters, here. By contrast, we could be having a productive conversation about how the asylum seekers to pose a challenging predicament for Israel, and what Israel should do.

      Regarding my actions, you should know that there is an organized, exciting group of Israelis–including some all-star activists–who are visiting Holot each Saturday from Tel Aviv, taking their only day off to travel hours in each direction, bringing their kids. One week some brought meat to barbeque, and another week they brought a lot of Ethiopian food. There’s a photo of one of these visits in the Holot photo journal. I keep thinking they’ll eventually grow tired of the travel, and/or want to do something else with their families on their only day off, but the visits continue, week after week, and they use the grounds of Holot to sit in circles, tent-protest-style, and brainstorm about what can happen next. This brainstorming, and all of the demonstrations, have been asylum-seeker-led, which is also exciting. It was Aman’s idea, for example, to bring his wife an daughter in protest to raise awareness about his case. My actions may seem brave to you, but from the inside they don’t feel brave. I visit every few weeks and then I go back to my life… It’s very sad.

      You, too, keep showing up when I imagine you’ll eventually grow weary of this place. Thank you.

      Reply to Comment
      • Sounds like there is another journalism piece here…

        The Africans are a fissure within the conservative movement. Leviticus 19:34, Exodus 22:21, Deuteronomy 10:19. As well as a crucial case for the rule of law, including legal reasoning, and judicial review. You need a win here real bad.

        As to me, I keep taking the right commenters too seriously. I should know that right nationalists policing this site aren’t interested in common ground. With the exception of Aaron Gross, but he is no policemen.

        This is a VERY long term battle. Winning is not being silent.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ayla

          Thank you for the bible references, Greg; they may really help me with my novel. Can you elaborate on what you men when you say “The Africans are a fissure within the conservative movement”? Thanks.

          Reply to Comment
          • The religious right sees Torah as the word of God. The above quotes (all really identically, suggesting they come from a common (oral?)source, are incompatible with the treatment of the refugees, going back to the South Tel Aviv riot and before. I think some on the right will find this hard to reconcile. They don’t mind keeping the Africans out at the fence–but really, nor do most Israelis. But, once entered, the Refugee Convention and these quotes have considerable overlap in intent; if anything, the Torah quotes are more liberal as they do not qualify protection to political refugees only. I think the national religious right can be embarrassed on this issue. The very text used to annex Judea and Samaria says they must treat refugees as neighbors. Indeed, even so for the West Bank Palestinians, since these are not engaged in the kind of collective warfare sanctioned by Torah.

            This is not going to solve the day. But it is an intellectual fissure, and it can be a place where the faithful say “we have gone too far.”

            But, as you must have noticed, I live in fantasy hope.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ayla

            one man’s “fantasy hope” is another man’s vision. I live there, too. Okay I googled the passages only after commenting here before, and I am familiar with them, and absolutely, the religious right seems to have forgotten The Book. Most religious Jews don’t even read the primary text anymore; it’s for amateurs. They’re steeped in Talmudic teachings that only reference the primary text to deconstruct it. For me it seems like becoming a literature major because you love literature, and then discovering how far that study takes you from the books you love. But I know many people who are steeped in Torah learning, which means learning Talmud etc., who say it brings them deeper and closer to Torah, and I’m sure that’s true at least for them. I actually believe that the Torah is divine, in that I’ve had enough revelations of my own, that didn’t come from me, to believe that is someone, such as Moses, wandered in the desert long enough and spent enough time by himself on a mountain, he would receive wisdom from a divine source that is everything. For me, God isn’t personified, but I’m happy to call that divine truth, wisdom, and love: God. After that, though, the Torah became a game of telephone: no one will argue that it took 40 generation (or so) to get it down on paper. That’s a lot of human interpretation… And today of course people read it however they want to read it, since obviously, God agrees with them. I think most people don’t even realize that the Torah is the Old Testament. Anyway, the simple teachings: the Ten Commandments, that are the essence of the Torah (they are the torah–they are what Moses received on Sinai)–are pretty good, eh?

            Reply to Comment
          • All three Abrahamic religions, even if two of them stole the other’s lunch, have wonderful and horrible things. I have taken a view I call “fractured monotheism” in which there is one God, but different at different places, God of one place often not liking God at another place. God confronts Itself through travel. And, because I was once a would be evolutionary biologist, I cannot say which form of God will win these local–local only–confrontations; nor does winning in one place mean winning in another place. Some of these God are brutal, and you can find passages in the sacred texts of all three faiths showing this; that is, even the texts per acknowledged faith are not coherent, God confronting Itself also therein.

            Nor would I limit this local yet universal, differentiated God to the Abrahamic faiths. Here, in Arizona, the far northeast of the State has the Hopi, who have many gods, all linked in a cooperative act keeping the universe, or at least the Hopi, going. The first command of the Moses ten is fine, as it simple says the Judaic faith is this form of God; but the second might be read as denying other forms elsewhere. This latter I cannot do, for while I am an unbeliever, and while I know many ecstatic in faith could do me harm socially and politically, I still cannot deny them the tool which lets them walk forward each day. Alas, I was also a grad student in anthropology. I know most people will not think like me, which is good, for my thought is rather personally difficult; and I cannot condemn them because they won’t–although I sometimes get really mad at them.

            In this view we are all experiments in God’s self confrontation. The religious settlers are one form; Vicky sometimes of this site is another; you a third. I wanted to see this process whole, not predict outcomes, for I do not think a single outcome of what God is is stable. But to think of a way of talking where sometimes we walk away from mutual difference rather than fight to the end.

            Yeah, really worked for me. Didn’t go so well for me.

            So, to me, your facing these refugees at prison is such a meeting of God with Itself. You see, its not always a confrontation. Sometimes these God merge, or take bits of one another, then depart. That’s why I really admire your going there and writing these pieces.

            So, K9–now you really got ammo against me!

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          • Ayla

            Greg–thank you. I’m unable to spend much time with your thoughtful response until tomorrow, so for now I will simply say: how could God, in anyone’s concept, not be everyone and everything’s God? I don’t see God in this way at all–separate and parental. but even if I did, we’d all be God’s children. If we take the Moses story at face value, then Moses was one person, channeling. We’re all capable of doing this. Also, yes, it’s a God meeting when I go to Holot. But it’s also a God meeting when I respond to K9. Everything is. Okay please check back in later in the week. Thanks.

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          • Ayla

            i’m back and enjoyed spending more time with your comment from my own computer, but/and actually have nothing to add; thank you for it.

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    5. selamawit

      the horrific labor of eritrean dictator iseyas is the source for this exodus of eritrean people.
      as refugees in israel they don’t have a no choice:
      if they return to eritrea, they will be tortured and killed by the regime. in israel their situaton is also horrific, but better than death.
      the only solution is to help the eritrean people get rid of the self-called goverment lead by iseyas afewerki.

      is doing with our people in eritrea and that isit is high time to stop him and his gang!!!

      WHAT WE CAN DO IN DIASPORA:

      dear brothers and sister,
      – the pioneers who recognized the the evil labor of iseyas and his gang very early,
      – those who unfortunately woke up late (like me)
      – and those who are still sleeping without having a cruel heart in opposite to the few real co-workers of iseyas,

      i think the grandness of a brotherhood/sisterhood (also symbolic ones) is, that he/she won’t close his eyes and his mouth when you are making big faults. he/she will also give you a shake similar to an earthquake, when he/she sees you being a cooperator of criminal gangs.
      he/she will do everything to save you from taking a demonic path.

      as eritreans we all have a lot of relatives we love and which love us also. and i am quiet sure, mostly without being aware of it, some relatives took the wrong path!

      WHO, THAN THE OWN SISTER OR BROTHER SHOULD HELP THEM RECOGNIZE THE SCOPE OF THEIR INVOLVEMENT IN THE EVIL LABOR OF DICTATOR ISEYAS???

      please, dear brothers and sisters, LET’S THINK GLOBAL AND ALSO ACT VERY, VERY MUCH LOCAL!
      it is much easier for them to learn from somebody they love, than from somebody they don’t really know.

      OR IN SHORT: LET’S SYSTEMATICALLY CONVINCE OUR FAMILY MEMBERS TO STOP ANY ACTIONS THAT WOULD SUPPORT THE DICTATOR ISEYAS’ LABOR. let us be very consequent in these points!

      God bless you all and your work for humanity.

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      • Ayla

        Selamawit–I cannot thank you enough for commenting here. I’m not sure how many of your desired audience you’ll reach on this comment thread–you can find me on facebook and send me a message, and I can connect you to many groups if you aren’t connected already. I think it’s understandable that some haven’t yet woken up. First of all, to align yourself with Iseyas, if you’re still in the country, is a means to survival. Secondly, from an emotional standpoint, seeing the truth is like being a child, admitting that your parents are abusing you. It’s very hard to do. But eventually you can, and then you can experience freedom, at least in your mind where it matters most. Thanks again.

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    6. Ayla

      in the end, this ended up being a pretty interesting comment thread. I would like to encourage people, if anyone is still here, to tell us something about where you’re from–what shapes your lens–when you comment. This is actually a kind of expertise, one’s experience, and it helps us know how to place someone’s perspective. Thanks for the ‘arizona’, Greg Pollock ;). I think I knew that already, actually. Hopi references are always appreciated around here… No story begins where it begins; there’s always what came before, and what came before has many people coming in with high emotions for many different reasons. Take care, all.

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