Fugee Fridays is a volunteer humanitarian initiative, founded in 2008 in response to the acute distress of the growing community of African asylum seekers living in Tel Aviv. Our purpose is to help address this community’s immediate needs while nurturing their independence, raising awareness of their plight, fostering positive cultural exchange between Israelis and Africans living in Israel and empowering both the refugee community and our volunteers. We organize a number of projects for the benefit of the African community, including food collection from the Carmel Market, language classes, children’s activities and a growing list of community development projects. Everything we do is guided by our belief in simple, elegant problem-solving which connects urgent needs with available and sustainable solutions. We hope that, by setting a personal example, we can inspire others to create similar social action projects that benefit their communities.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Finally, A Respite of Sorts for Israel’s African Refugees

By Jesse Fox

July was not an easy month for African asylum seekers and migrant foreign workers living in Israel. However, in response to an intense public backlash, the government has decided to partially suspend its anti-foreigner crackdown.

During the peak of the hot, humid Tel Aviv summer, foreigners living here were forced to hide from an aggressive manhunt conducted in broad daylight on the city streets. However, in response to an intense public backlash, the government has decided to back down on some of its anti-foreigner policies.

As I wrote here last week, July saw the inauguration of a new Interior Ministry unit, called “Oz,” with a mandate to arrest and imprison “illegals” – meaning migrant workers without a valid visa, the children of these workers, Palestinians living illegally inside the Green Line and African asylum seekers living in the center of the country.

The latter are refugees from disaster zones such as Darfur, South Sudan and Eritrea who seek temporary asylum in Israel. An Interior Ministry policy dating back to early 2008 (which until July was only loosely enforced) prohibits them from living in Greater Tel Aviv.

Beginning July 1st, Oz’s inspectors, accompanied by police, began descending daily on neighborhoods known to be populated by foreigners, arresting people wholesale. Refugees from Africa were also arrested, and ordered to leave Tel Aviv for the country’s periphery. Many of them did, leaving behind jobs, apartments and community.

The move, however, provoked a huge public outcry. Protests were organized, a media campaign was launched, and a handful of dedicated activists even took it upon themselves to conduct anti-expulsion patrols, keeping an eye on Oz’s movements and warning potential detainees and other activists ahead of raids.

(Barely a day went by last month when I didn’t receive a text message from these volunteers saying something along the lines of: “Arrests at the corner of X and Y Streets, please come help if you are in the area.”)

Adding to the public pressure against the expulsion from Tel Aviv, mayors and residents of the outlying towns that were forced to absorb the refugees often reacted to them with undisguised hostility. Meanwhile, the Tel Aviv Municipality, perhaps embarrassed by reports that it had pressured the government expel the refugees, softened its stance on the issue.

The Jerusalem Municipality, for its part, publicly stated that Oz inspectors were not welcome in the Holy City.

Then, to the surprise and relief of many, Interior Minister Eli Yishai announced late last week that his ministry was suspending restrictions on refugees’ freedom of movement, and that they would be allowed to return to Tel Aviv. At the same time, he announced, the next phase of the operation, in which migrant worker families with young children would also become candidates for immediate expulsion, would be put off for at least three months.

In the meantime, the government will finally sit down and hammer out a coherent policy regarding non-citizen populations living in the country. And a new idea is now making the rounds: the construction of another wall, this time along Israel’s desert border with Egypt.

Yishai made the announcement on Tisha B’av, a somber Jewish fast day which commemorates a series of historical disasters (including more than a few expulsions) that befell the Jewish people. Yishai, a religious Jew, must have been aware of the irony.

The activist community, emboldened by the victory, vowed to keep up the pressure. Following the announcement, a demonstration was held demanding the release of several hundred African refugees still being held in prison for violating the new-defunct policy. On Saturday evening, thousands of Israelis, Africans and migrant workers formed a human chain around a south Tel Aviv park, calling for a law against expelling children from the country.

That same night, Oz hit the streets with a vengeance. Once again, activists reported violent arrests and inspectors breaking down doors in neighborhoods populated by foreign workers. While African refugees and families with children had won a reprieve, for now anyway, “illegal” migrant workers continued to be forcefully deported.

Meanwhile, for Africans seeking asylum in Israel, the daily struggle continues. Thus far, at least, there hasn’t been a mass return to Tel Aviv, and thousands now find themselves living outside of the center, with new landlords and new neighbors – but not necessarily with new jobs to pay the bills.

click here to view this article at mondoweiss.net

click here to view this article at sustainabalecityblog.com

Refuge, Yes… But Not in Tel Aviv

By Florentine Lempp

(A few days after T and S, refugees from South Sudan, had their first daughter, they were forced to leave Tel Aviv. (photo: Florentine Lempp.)

 If I was the kind of person that had heroes, T. would be one of them. At the age of 23, she has just had her third child, the first girl after two boys. She’s a refugee from South Sudan who lived in Egypt for a while, until there too life became unbearable.

Almost two years ago, she walked across the border from Sinai into Israel, together with her husband S., in the search of a better life for their children. They carried the boys through the night, fearful of being caught by Egyptian soldiers or abandoned by the Bedouin smugglers to whom they had paid a large sum of money to guarantee their safe crossing.

They are devout Christians. According to S., they prayed, and their prayers were answered. They crossed the border unharmed and finally found their way to Tel Aviv. The rent here is outrageous, but what can you do – if you don’t take the apartment right away, another refugee will come, who might be willing to pay even more in order not to have to sleep in the park.

When I first met T., she was already four months pregnant. She had quit working in a kindergarten for children of refugees and foreign workers and was now only taking care of her own two kids – the quiet but very affectionate five year old, and the cute but hot-tempered little one, whom they lovingly call “Balagan (chaos) Boy”. I’ve never seen her sad, or worried, or even exhausted in light of what she has been through. When a friend got sick, when a neighbor had a child, she was always there to help.

On a very hot June afternoon, when the little electric fan in the apartment was unable to provide any relief from the heat, we took the two kids to the park. With a belly as big and as round as a basketball, about a week before she would give birth, we were sitting near the playground in Lewinsky Park, watching the boys running and climbing, ignoring the comatose homeless man sleeping under the slides and the used needles in the grass. We talked about the immigration police and the expected raids, their orders to expel those who don’t have a valid visa.

T., like so many Sudanese refugees, holds only a “conditional release” from prison, but it doesn’t allow her to live in Tel Aviv – or, for that matter, anywhere between Hadera and Gedera. It also does not allow her, or her husband, to work legally in order to support themselves. But someone has to pay for the apartment and for food.

The reason why the authorities don’t want the refugees to live in Tel Aviv is because, so they argue, the refugees take jobs and apartments that would otherwise go to Israelis. But whoever has paid attention to the kinds of jobs that refugees are doing, will see that it has been decades since those have been done by Israelis. Dishwashing (and other low-wage jobs in restaurants), cleaning and construction work have long been the domain of Palestinian laborers. Ever since the Second Intifada, the void of Palestinian laborers has been filled by refugees and foreign workers.

As for the apartments, I doubt that the shortage of affordable apartments would be solved by removing the refugees from the houses around the two bus stations, an area which is very unlikely to undergo the same process of gentrification that we have seen in other quarters of South Tel Aviv.

T. likes Tel Aviv. There is work here, and the landlords in the south of the city are used to renting their apartments to refugees (even though they demand exorbitant prices). The UN offices are here, and it is not too far from the Population and Migration Authority’s offices in Lod. Here, there are several aid organizations that support refugees and there is a free clinic in nearby Jaffa. But most of all, there is a community of refugees from South Sudan here who know and help each other. If they had to move to the periphery, they would lose their support system.

Two weeks later: the new baby was born, and S. was arrested shortly thereafter by the immigration police. They let him go, under the condition that he and his family leave Tel Aviv within the next six days. He went to Hadera to look for an apartment and a job, while T. stayed home with the kids, partly because she’s worried about the immigration police and partly because it’s too much of a hassle to leave the house with all three of them to look after.

He was not successful. Landlords and employers alike are wary of the “conditional release” that makes him look like an ex-convict. But he’s not giving up.

Neither T. nor her husband is expecting any favors or welfare from the state, all they want is safety for a while, for themselves and for their children, until they can go back to South Sudan. While in Israel, all they want is the chance to support themselves, to work for their living, like everybody else. In the meantime, despite the dire situation, and against all odds, they are optimistic that God will help.

The little baby girl is called “Joyce”.

Florentine Lempp is a political scientist, and works as a program coordinator for German study tours to Israel. She has spent much of the past year volunteering on behalf of the African refugee community living in Tel Aviv.

click here to view this article at haaretz.com

Israel Expels African Refugees from Tel Aviv

By Jesse Fox

This past weekend, a couple friends and I helped four Sudanese families move out of Tel Aviv. We rented a van (which of course broke down mid-move), loaded up their possessions along with some furniture donated by several kind people, and set off for Nazareth, Hadera and Ashdod – distant cities where they hope to set up new homes. The families, refugees from conflict zones in Darfur and South Sudan, were grateful to us for our help. Leaving Tel Aviv was not their choice – as of the beginning of July, they are no longer allowed to live and work in Israel’s largest urban area.

Refugees everywhere tend to concentrate themselves on the fringes of big cities. Here, too, most of African refugee community, which began arriving here after Egyptian police attacked and killed sudanese refugees protesting in Cairo in late 2005, took up residence in Tel Aviv’s poorer southern neighborhoods.

A particularly large wave of refugees arrived in Tel Aviv during the winter of 2008. During that time, it became common to see people sleeping outside in public parks or cramped into overcrowded shelters. Noticing the obvious distress of these newcomers to our city, several friends and I set up a voluntary organization to provide them with food, English and Hebrew lessons, children’s activities and whatever other services we could muster on a shoestring budget and with the help of a handful of volunteers.

Around the same time, the Israeli government, which also caught wind of what was going on, decided to restrict African asylum seekers from living inside Greater Tel Aviv (illegally, according to the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees). This policy still applies to the vast majority of the almost 20,000 refugees from Sudan, Eritrea and other countries currently living in Israel.

Apparently, the policy stemmed from a combination of NIMBY-ism on the part of the Tel Aviv Municipality, economic nationalism (“they are taking jobs from Israelis”) and the government’s fear that, if treated well, the refugees would tell all of their friends and family to come to Israel as well. The policy, called Hadera-Gedera after the two cities that delineate the edges of Metropolitan Tel Aviv, recalls (to my mind, anyway) the Pale of Settlement, Imperial Russia’s attempt to physically remove the Jews from the mainstream of Russian society.

While a small minority have been officially recognized as refugees, and thus granted ID cards and the right to work legally, the rest have been labeled by government officials as “refugee work immigrants" and “illegal infiltrators from enemy countries,” and told the leave the center of the country.

Until recently, the Hadera-Gedera policy was only loosely enforced. However, July 1st marked the inauguration of a new unit at the Population Administration, called “Oz,” charged with arresting and expelling all “illegal” foreign workers and asylum seekers. Whether the new unit’s appearance has anything to do with the rise of the nationalist far-right in Israel is unclear.

In any case, since then they have been conducting daily manhunts on the streets of Tel Aviv, targeting anyone with a foreign appearance. After they arrested hundreds of African refugees and ordered them to leave the city, the refugees got the message, and thus began the latest in a long series of displacements that this community has suffered.

The tragedy of it all is that the refugee community was finally beginning to find some stability and normalcy in Tel Aviv. Here, their kids studied in Israeli schools, they found jobs, free health clinics and aid organizations. How they will find jobs to pay their rents outside of the center of the country, where work is scarce, I do not know.

Needless to say, this is a community of sharp, resilient and warm people fleeing unimaginable circumstances. Many, many people in Tel Aviv reacted to their arrival with an outpouring of hospitality and generosity. There are more than a few people in Tel Aviv for whom the decision to expel them from the city represents the crossing of a red line – and it takes a lot for people to really take up such a cause in a country where every week seems to bring some new scandal or political upheaval.

The government, however, has hardened its heart toward these uninvited guests. Passed around like a human hot potato, the African community has not always been made to feel welcome. Almost every refugee that I have met spent the first several months of his or her stay in an Israeli prison, and, for most, the only official document they carry is still their “conditional release” from incarceration.

The government is promoting a new lawwhich would criminalize the refugees, threatening them and those that assist them with long jail terms. According to the bill, my friends and I, by choosing to spend our weekend helping refugee families move, could find ourselves sentenced to 20 years in jail.

For the sake of comparison, Avraham Hirshon, Israel’s former Finance Minister who was found guilty of stealing millions from a workers’ federation, got only five and a half years in jail.

Like most Israelis, I come from a family that was forced to flee its home more than once. Almost everyone in this land, whether Jew or Palestinian, knows what it is like to be a refugee. If anyone should have compassion for these unfortunate people, it is us.

click here to view this article at mondoweiss.net

click here to view this article at sustainablecityblog.com

Do Not Oppress the Stranger

“Do not

oppress the stranger because you think he has no one to defend him; remember how Pharaoh learned that God defends the stranger.” Nahmanides (Ramban)

By Jesse Fox

They told us it was coming, and they weren’t kidding.

This week, Israel’s new Population, Immigration and Border Authority burst into south Tel Aviv, accompanied by a fleet of buses and soldiers from the Border Police. Their orders, apparently, were to arrest everyone: those with papers and those without, foreign workers and asylum seekers, married men and single mothers.

The Authority is headed by Yaakov Ganot, a veteran of the police, Border Police and Prison Service. Ganot has been criticized by the State Comptroller and even the Supreme Court, which found that “his behavior is not suitable to a policeman and can hurt the reputation of the police.” Under Ganot’s leadership, the Immigration Administration was criticized in the past for infringing upon the human rightsof foreign workers.

On July 1st, the first day of the new unit’s existence, it carried out its first wave of arrests. According to Haaretz, several hundred people were detained. Two thirds of them were released by nightfall.

Since then the raids have continued. The neighborhood of Neveh Sha’anan, which over the years has become a lively local version of Chinatown, with adults and children of multiple nationalities and ethnicities living side by side, is no longer a safe zone for Tel Aviv’s non-Jewish residents.

While foreign workers face the very real possibility of deportation, along with their children (who were in many cases born in Israel), African refugees cannot be legally returned to their homelands. Instead, the government seeks to expel them from the center of the country, to the periphery – north of Hadera and south of Gedera. While the official logic behind this policy is not clear (at least not to me, I have yet to hear a coherent official justification for it), it has been in effect for some time now.Only now, it is being strongly enforced.

After living through wars, genocide and oppression, these refugees have found some measure of stability in Tel Aviv, and have begun to rebuild their lives here. Now, however, the government has undermined that stability, and many refugees are exploring their options outside of Tel Aviv.

This week, one of the leaders of the South Sudanese community was detained. The cops, who examined his papers and saw that he is an asylum seeker, released him. But they left him with a warning. You have a week to leave Tel Aviv, they told him. Next time we find you here, you will be arrested and imprisoned.

This man, whose wife has just had a baby, works to support his family. For a while, he also ran a community center for South Sudanese. Although he closed it down not too long ago, he had planned on reopening it in a more central location. A devout Christian, he was also thinking about studying for the priesthood in Nazareth. This week, after being ordered to leave the city, he traveled up to Hadera to look for an apartment there.

In tolerant and pluralistic Tel Aviv, African refugees have built communities. Here they have access to jobs, housing, medical care and organizations that provide them with aid and services. Outside of the center, they are isolated, with no one to defend their rights. In the country’s periphery, they are cheap labor, easily exploited and not always made to feel welcome.

In the wake of previous raids, African refugees have fled to places like Eilat, where they found plentiful employment in that city’s hotels and tourism industry. Local politicians there, however, decided that the refugees were “a burden and a nuisance,” eventually convincing the Interior Ministry to expel them from Eilat (despite the fact that Eilat’s hoteliers lobbied against their expulsion). Many eventually returned to Tel Aviv to once again start over from scratch.

Refugees and foreign workers are human beings, and they have human rights. If the Interior Ministry has a good reason why refugees should not live in the center of the country, let it state it publicly. If not, it should stop playing with the fates of thousands of people as if their lives were a game of backgammon.

This expulsion, like previous ones, will only serve to disrupt people’s lives even more – people who have already been through unimaginable situations and suffer from serious post-traumatic stress. As a nation of refugees itself, Israel can and must demand a more ethical and humane policy from its government. Israeli citizens, American Jews and the various aid and advocacy organizations have a responsibility to tell the government what it doesn’t want to hear – that we will not let it mistreat refugees and victims of persecution and genocide.

click here to view this article at sustainablecityblog.com

Refugees Keep Out!

 Handwritten poster hanging in a Darfuri refugee shelter in Tel Aviv

By Jesse Fox

Israel’s new point man on refugee issues spouts some pretty shocking opinions in an interview with Haaretz.

For about a year and a half now, I have been volunteering with the African refugee community in Tel Aviv. I’ve heard some of their stories, formed several friendships and met some incredibly inspiring and resilient people along the way.

Although in many ways the community is much better off now than it was a year or so ago, African refugees continue to face adversity and prejudice in Israel. While gradually emerging from their own personal traumas, and their collective culture shock, the refugees have met with a strange sort of hospitality on behalf of the Israeli government.

For several weeks, rumors have been circulating that the government is gearing up for a large-scale operation to arrest and expel “illegal” foreigners, including foreign workers, refugees and asylum seekers. Recently, a bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Knesset which would criminalize the refugees (Hebrew link to the text of the bill) and those who assist them.

Last week, Haaretz’s Nurit Wurgaft published an extensive interview with Yaakov Ganot, head of the Population Administration in the Interior Ministry, who agreed to shed some light on the subject (read it in English here and in Hebrew here).

Ganot, the architect of the government’s “Hadera-Gedera” policy (which prohibits refugees and asylum seekers from living and working in the center of the country) is in charge of a newly-formed government body, the Population, Immigration and Border Authority. Among other things, the authority will take over the issue of refugees and asylum seekers in Israel, and is set to begin operating July 1st.

I have to admit that I was so shocked after reading this article for the first time that I had to read it again. It wasn’t any easier to digest on the second reading.

The good news for people who care about human rights is that Ganot has no intention of forcibly deporting the 20,000 or so African refugees currently living in Israel. The bad news is that he is not inclined to do them any favors either, and apparently views them as lawbreakers by default: “The kind of thing you find nowadays in Tel Aviv, where illegal workers and infiltrators can just go about freely, this has to stop.”

In a display of circular logic that only an authentic Israeli bureaucrat could produce, Ganot explains that the refugees’ poverty is bad for Israel’s image: “They send the money home, live in horribly crowded conditions, and also give Israel a bad name, because they live in such poor conditions. A hundred people in a moldy shelter, 20 people in one apartment.” If Ganot’s new authority has any concrete plans to improve their living conditions or reduce the crowding in their apartments, he doesn’t mention them.

Ganot admits that the refugees are exploited by employers because they are illegal. The reason they are “illegal” is that they are not officially recognized by the government as refugees. Still, Ganot doesn’t understand what the big deal is: “We don’t send them back, so why do they need that official recognition right now?”

“They’re not going to be lovers of Israel because they’re hunted,”he adds. This is one of the myths put forward by the government – that these are mostly Arabic-speaking Muslims from enemy nations, and they are no great friends of ours. Many will also hint, as Ganot does, that there are security issues at stake.

From my personal experience, the opposite is usually true. While most do speak Arabic, and a great many are Muslims, the refugee community is probably among the more patriotic groups in the country. While I can’t speak for all, the refugees that I know are eternally grateful to Israel and to the Jewish people. They study Hebrew, hang the Israeli flag and some even wish to enlist in the army.

To write off the entire community as “not lovers of Israel” is not only an affront to the refugees, it is also short-sighted. Imagine what will happen when these young Darfuri and South Sudanese men return to their country speaking Hebrew and grateful to Israel for the asylum that they were granted here. What better allies could Israel ask for in a hostile state like Sudan? That officials like Ganot cannot grasp this testifies to an unfortunate lack of imagination.

In an apparent contradiction, Ganot admits that the refugees are just “scraping by,” but then goes on to criticize them for making “pretty good money,” which he says they send out of the country to their relatives: “When a Sudanese arrives here and goes to work cleaning houses, he makes pretty good money. He doesn’t pay income tax, or health tax. They live 20 people to a room. That’s [an income of] two thousand dollars.”

And, of course, Ganot cannot resist delving into meaningless and irrelevant demographic calculations: “We’ve reached a situation in which 1,680 people arrived in one month alone, when our entire aliya [Jewish immigration to Israel] is 14,000 people per year.”
He also can’t help but indulge in ignorant and racist stereotypes: “There are people who defecate in the waiting rooms, who attack and bite.”

In Ganot’s world, this is a new kind of phenomenon, which he calls “refugee foreign workers” – here by choice, not for lack of choice: “In our examinations, I would say that 99.9 percent of them are here for work. They’re not asylum seekers, they are not at any risk.”

On the South Sudanese: “Nothing is happening in southern Sudan. They didn’t come to us from Sudan. They come from Egypt, where they heard there’s a chance to make money in Israel.”
On the Eritreans: “The Eritrean ambassador met with me and he said, ‘Tell me, sir: If you had army deserters, what would you do with them?’ I said, ‘I’d put them in jail.’ He said, ‘They’re deserters. It’s not right that instead of returning them to Eritrea, you keep them here.’”

He neglects to mention that, unlike Israel, Eritrea is a cruel dictatorship that forcibly conscripts its young men in order to fight frequent and superfluous wars. The US views it as a “rogue state.” Ganot, apparently, has found a common language with its officials, who last year called on Israel to repatriate Eritrean “army deserters” to their homeland. Eritreans in Israel, for their part, are convinced that returning to their homeland would mean certain death at the hands of the regime.

And, as if his comments were not sufficiently insulting, Ganot even mocks the suffering of the refugees: “They’re upset about one thing only: That they can’t be in Tel Aviv, make a lot of money to send home, sit here and cry.”

The fact that the Israeli government has chosen to appoint someone who openly makes statements like these to a position where he is responsible for the fates of some 20,000 African refugees is revealing. As opposed to the (mostly volunteer) organizations that approach the refugee community from a position of compassion, respect and human solidarity, the government is determined to deal with the refugees as an unwanted nuisance – banishing them to the margins of society and issuing self-fulfilling declarations describing them as hostile infiltrators and enemies of Israel.

One can’t help but wonder if the politicians and government bureaucrats have already forgotten that they too, along with the entire Jewish people, were once a nation of refugees, and that in their own interminable period in exile there were also those that chose to accomodate them, and those that chose to persecute them.

Postscript: In her July 1st op-ed in Haaretz, Avirama Golan offers an interesting explanation of the phenomenon described above. In her view, the Interior Ministry’s decision to target non-Jewish foreigners is the result of socio-economic and class politics, couched in the discourse of Jewish ethnic and religious identity:

“The Filipinas who bathe our elderly, the Chinese who build our luxury towers and the Thais who cultivate our fruits and vegetables for export often displace Israel’s Arab citizens. These citizens have no lobby, and no one cares about them or their lack of employment. In contrast, the Africans, South Americans, Ukrainians and all the rest, who clean houses and do other household scut work, displace a different group – the Jewish lower class.”

This class of people is effectively Shas’ electorate. Shas holds the Interior Ministry and dictates policy to officials like Yaakov Ganot that are charged with executing it. Shas, eager to serve as a lobby for its voters, thus chooses to expell foreigners working in one sector of the economy, while “importing” more and more foreign workers for another economic sector – all the while presenting these policies in the language of “Hebrew labor,” while ignoring questions of humanism and universal values.

click here to view this article on sustainablecityblog.com

Giving Refugees More than Just a Basket of Food

by Daniel Rosenberg

Over the past several months, I have become a regular at Fugee Fridays, a grassroots organization that brings donated food from the vegetable market in Tel Aviv to three different shelters for African refugees every Friday afternoon.

I have grown to feel a part of a community of volunteers and enjoy playing with the children who live in one of the shelters as they playfully call me "hashamen", which means fatty in Hebrew.

Last week I delivered a box of food to the home of a woman who is nine months pregnant. When I arrived at her home, her husband invited me in for tea. I had the privilege of sitting down and having a cup of tea with him while he told me about his story. He escaped Chad in 1991, and he described to me the difficult journey that he experienced as he traveled through Libya and Egypt until finally reaching Israel.

He told me that the United Nations had not granted him refugee status, and he said, "You see your parents get killed in front of your own eyes and you run away, and this is still not good enough for the UN to give you refugee status."

He spoke to me about how happy he is to be able to have a job working at the pool at a Tel Aviv hotel, which allows him to support his family. He also discussed the feelings of uncertainty he feels living in Israel, since he has not officially been granted the status of a refugee, and how difficult it is for his child and the rest of the neighborhood children to receive an education.

I have developed a close relationship with the neighborhood children, but this was the first time I was able to speak with one of the adults in the community about their own personal narrative. It was a truly enlightening experience hearing first-hand about this man's experience, his hardships along the way and how he was happy to have food to eat, a roof over his head and order in the streets.

Fugee Fridays has given me the ultimate reward of knowing that I am doing some good in this world. Steven Fox, one of the founders of Fugee Fridays, told me recently that our friendships with these children constitute a positive influence for a group of kids who have been through a lot and face an uncertain future.

Perhaps the most important part of Fugee Fridays is the fact that we are sending a message to these people that we care about them and that we want to help.

The work that we are doing with the refugees is basic and direct. But, as my conversation last Friday helped me understand, if we are able to continue to send a message of human solidarity and caring to this community, then our impact will last much longer than a basket of food.

Daniel Rosenberg is currently a second year business student at IDC Herzliya. He is a native of Raleigh, North Carolina.

click here to view this article on haaretz.com

Ha Chaagiim

Fugee Seder Pesach 2009

Fugee Purim 2009