Magazine article The Christian Century

Rabbis Offer Sanctuary to Africans in Israel

Magazine article The Christian Century

Rabbis Offer Sanctuary to Africans in Israel

Article excerpt

A prominent rabbi in Israel has asked her peers to provide sanctuary for nearly 40,000 African asylum seekers who could soon be deported by the government.

Rabbi Susan Silverman, the older sister of comedian Sarah Silverman, is a Jerusalem-based community activist who was once taken into police custody for demanding that women be allowed to read from a Torah at the Western Wall.

In December, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the government will deport all African asylum seekers by the end of March if they do not accept the government's offer of $3,500 and a ticket out of the country. Most come from Eritrea and Sudan and entered Israel illegally via Egypt.

Advocates for the asylum seekers, whom Netanyahu calls "infiltrators," say their lives will be in danger if they are forced to leave Israel. Netanyahu has said that Israel, as a sovereign country, has a right and obligation to protect itself against illegal immigration.

Silverman unveiled her plan January 16 during a conference organized by the Israeli group Rabbis for Human Rights. Called the Anne Frank Home Sanctuary movement, the plan asks the organization's nearly 200 members to house asylum seekers if the government follows through on deportation.

The family of Frank, the teenage diarist, was sheltered by Christians before being deported to a Nazi concentration camp, where all but Anne's father died.

"This isn't a new idea; it's something people have done for a long time and that Jews in dangerous places have benefited from--now it's our turn," Silverman said. …

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