THE ZIONIST DREAM REVISITED
By Micah Halpern
Thursday August 21, 2008
The Zionist dream is alive and well.
Refugees are once again abandoning their place of birth, enduring great physical hardship and risking their lives to enter the Land of Israel. These are not the Jews of Europe, fleeing anti-Semitism, yearning for their ancestral home. They are not the Jews of Iraq, expelled from their homes and hiking across borders to take refuge in the land of their biblical forefathers. They are not the Jews of Ethiopia who walked for hundreds of miles and hundreds of days to escape persecution before they were, finally, airlifted to safety in Israel.
They are Muslims.
They are survivors from Darfur.
And only the lucky ones make it. Since January of this year nineteen people have been shot to death at the border between Egypt and Israel. Hundreds of others have illegally but safely and successfully crossed the border into Israel.
Egyptian policy is to use lethal force, that's the way they do things. Israeli policy is to offer medical plans.
Despite all the horrific anti-Israel vitriol than pervades the Muslim world, despite the lessons of hate that children are taught from their earliest years in schools and in places of worship, these people fleeing for their lives know that escape to Israel is one of their only chances of survival. They risk danger in order to enter the Land of Zion, in order to achieve their own dreams of coming to Israel.
Persecuted Jews came to Israel in order to transform their Jewish experience from one of being the victim to one of being the defender. They came to be a part of a society that is new, vibrant and free of oppression. So, too, with today's refugees entering Israel. What makes Israel so exciting to the people of Darfur and other parts of Africa, what makes Israel so enticing, so worth the risk of getting there is the life they will lead once there. Freedom is a hard commodity to come by in most of the world, even today.
The story of the miracle of Israel has taken hold in the hearts and minds of oppressed people - even oppressed Muslims in far away Africa. In Israel, the Jews made the desert bloom. And in Israel they provide health care and offer education to everyone regardless of religion or color or citizenship.
The Darfur Muslims now entering Israel are given a home and a haven. When Jews were in trouble the gates of the world were shut to them. Israel will never shut the gates - not to Jews and not to any peoples in need. Just like the stranded Boat People of Viet Nam who entered Israel in 1978 when the world was willing to let them die and few other countries were granting refuge, most of the Darfur refugees who made it to Israel will find their place in Israeli culture and society.
It is still unclear how Israel will process the new population illegally entering the country. Some have been arrested and some have been granted refugee status, some have been granted citizenship and some are living in tent camps. But a solution will be found, the process has begun and the refugees are still attempting to make their way to freedom in the State of Israel.
One thing is for sure, they are not being shot at at the border - not as they enter and not if they choose to one day leave.
So how do these Muslims fit into the Zionist dream?
They don't. But Israel will see to it that they will.
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