Views From Kennewick

Monday, December 10, 2007

As the World Marks Human Rights Day 2007,

Israel Continues its Efforts to Aid

Darfur Refugees

On Mon., Dec. 10, the United Nations will commemorate the
60th annual Human Rights Day and its Universal Declaration
of Human Rights. According to UN Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon, “It is our duty to ensure that these rights are a
living reality – that they are known, understood and enjoyed
by everyone, everywhere. It is often those who most need their
human rights protected, who also need to be informed that the
Declaration exists – and that it exists for them
.” [1]

Israel has frequently demonstrated its
commitment to aiding those suffering
in countries far beyond
Israel, such as offering disaster relief to countries ranging from
El Salvador [2] and Kosovo [3] to Turkey [4] and Sri Lanka. [5]

Israel, despite its small size and limited resources, has once again
taken a prominent role in relieving the suffering of others by granting
asylum to hundreds of refugees from Sudan’s Darfur region. [6]
The four-year-old Darfur conflict has left hundreds of thousands of
Sudanese dead and displaced at least two million others. The brutal
conflict has been marked by widespread atrocities such as raping girls
and murdering civilians. [7]

In Sept. 2007, the Israeli government officially granted asylum to 498
Darfur refugees. [8] In October, the government gave 51 of them new
homes at kibbutzes – collective living settlements – where they are now
living and working. [9]

On Oct. 17, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced that 300 of the
Darfur refugees had been successfully settled in homes in the Negev. [10]

In addition, Israel’s foreign ministry announced in September that it would
donate $5 million to victims of genocide in Darfur. Israel will transfer $4
million to four international aid organizations and purchase $1 million worth
of medicine and water desalination equipment from Israeli companies,
which will be given to the refugees. [11]

The Darfur conflict remains one of the most serious humanitarian crises in
the world today. The UN estimates that the death toll now exceeds 400,000
and that there are more than two million internally displaced persons in
Darfur. [12] In addition, there are more than 200,000 refugees from
Darfur in Chad. [13]

Details of Israel’s Aid to Darfur’s Refugees

• There are significant numbers of Darfur refugees who have made their
way to Egypt and from there across the Sinai desert and into Israel. According
to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees there are
roughly 500 Darfurian refugees in Israel and another 2,500 refugees of other
nationalities and categories. [14]

• Prime Minister Olmert has stated that the government is considering
helping to establish, and contributing towards, additional refugee camps
outside Israel to cope with the influx of African refugees to Israel. According
to a highly-placed source, Ethiopia is a potential location for such camps. [15]

In addition to the efforts of the Israeli government to accommodate the
refugees, there has been a significant level of grassroots, social activism
by Israeli civil society organizations.

• There are a number of organizations set up by activists in Israel to
promote the welfare of the Darfur refugees. One of those is the Committee
for Advancement of Refugees from Darfur (CARD), which consists of a
number of independent human rights NGOs. The committee’s members
coordinate and oversee all the media efforts and political advocacy aimed
at bringing greater public awareness to the Sudanese refugee problem in
Israel. The Committee's volunteers also coordinate and implement various
humanitarian efforts to improve the daily lives of the refugees detained
in prison. [16]

• The Hotline for Migrant Workers, an NGO which promotes the rights of
migrant workers, refugees and other vulnerable groups, has also been very
active on behalf of the Darfur refugees. The group has undertaken legal
action for the refugees and their volunteers visit detention centers, take
testimonies and provide clothes and phone-cards. The Hotline has also
assisted the refugees in gaining medical treatment and homes on
kibbutzes. [17]

• The World Union of Jewish Students Institute (WUJS) in the southern
Israeli town of Arad recently began a Hebrew-language course for
Darfurian refugees living in Arad. About 70 refugees from Darfur
were placed in the Israeli town at the beginning of the summer. The
children are enrolled in local schools, while the adults commute to work
in hotels at the Dead Sea. About 35 adults have also taken advantage
of the free Hebrew classes. [18]

The WUJS center, which is run by the women's Zionist organization
Hadassah, developed the curriculum for the Hebrew classes, while
teachers in Arad are volunteering their time. The classes are held in
Jewish Agency-owned absorption centers in the city.

• The Jewish Agency for Israel is temporarily housing 58 refugees
from Sudan, many of them believed to be from the Darfur area, at
the special request of the Prime Minister’s Office. The group is staying
at the Jewish Agency Ibim Absorption center located near Sderot, where
they are receiving housing, food and medical care. [19]

• Kibbutz Eilot, in the south of the country, has been sent 170 refugees
by the army and Israeli Border Police where they are living and have
also been provided with work and medical care in conjunction with the
Ministry of Health. [20]

• Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael has taken in five Darfur refugees. They work
on the kibbutz, receive free board and electricity and subsidized meals.
They have private Hebrew lessons twice a week and go on day trips to
Tel Aviv. [21]

• Other kibbutzes that have taken in refugees from Darfur include
Kibbutz Ketura, [22] Kibbutz Sde Boker, Kibbutz Tse'elim, [23]
Kibbutz Ma’aleh Hahamisha. [24]

• More than 300 African and Sudanese refugees are working in
hotels in Eilat. Their absorption is the responsibility of the Hotline
for Migrant Workers and the UN Refugee Agency in Israel. The two
organizations have worked together to release refugees being held
in prison compounds and find them housing and employment. [25]


[1] Home Page, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights:1948-2008,”, accessed Dec. 10, 2007
[2] "Israeli Aid to Earthquake Victims in El Salvador-January/February 2001,"
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 1, 2001,
[3] "Aid to Kosovo Refugees," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, April 3, 1999,
[4] "Israeli Aid for Turkish Earthquake Victims," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Aug. 18, 1999,
[5] The Tsunami Disaster in Southeast Asia," Ministry of Foreign Affairs Operations PowerPoint Presentation, Jan. 1, 2005,{84DC5887-741E-4056-8D91-A389164BC94E}/200501MFA_ENG_TSUNAMI.PPT
[6] Sofer, Ronny, “Government okays absorption of 498 Darfur refugees,” YnetNews, Sept. 23, 2007,,7340,L-3452414,00.html
[7] African Union/United Nations Hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID), “Darfur – Unamid – Backround,” UNAMID press release accessed Dec. 9, 2007,
[8] Sofer, Ronny, “Government okays absorption of 498 Darfur refugees,” YnetNews, Sept. 23, 2007,,7340,L-3452414,00.html
[9] “Israel releases 50 Darfur refugees,” Agence France-Presse, Oct. 18, 2007,
[10] Frenkel, Sheera Claire, “Gov't eyes Ghana, Kenya for refugees,” The Jerusalem Post, Oct. 18, 2007,
[11] Eichner, Itamar “Israel to donate $5 million to Darfur refugees,” YnetNews, May 9, 2007,,7340,L-3397639,00.html
[12] “Annan welcomes extension of African Union mission in Darfur,” Web site of the UN, Sept. 21, 2006
[13] “Sudanese Refugees in Chad,” Fact Sheet of the United States Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, Nov. 29, 2004,
[14] “Israel: Some African asylum-seekers lack food, decent accommodation,” IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks), Oct. 16, 2007,
[15] Ilan, Shahar, “Government source: State may send African refugees to Ethiopia,” Haaretz, Oct. 18, 2007,
[16] Committee for Advancement of Refugees from Darfur,
[17] Hotline for Migrant Workers,
[18] Berman, Daphna, “Darfur refugees in Arad learn the alefbet of Israeli life,” Haaretz, Sept. 20, 2007,
[19] “Jewish Agency provides shelter to 58 refugees from Sudan,” Jewish United Fund, July 13, 2007,
[20] Dressler, Tamar, “From Darfur to Eilat: Refugees' new life,” YnetNews, June 17, 2007,
[21] Matthew , Jennie, “Sudanese seek refuge in Israel from Darfur,” ReliefWeb, March 8, 2007,
[22] Wainer , David, “From Darfur to a kibbutz oasis,” Haaretz, accessed Nov. 14, 2007,
[23] Wurgaft , Nurit, “Zionism to make us proud: Kibbutz shelters Darfur refugees,” ZioNation Web site sourcing Haaretz, retrieved from ZioNation Web site on Nov. 14, 2007,
[24] “Two Darfur refugees stand beneath the Menorah outside of Israel’s Knesset,” Web site of New Israel Fund, Feb. 27, 2007,
[25] Dressler, Tamar, “From Darfur to Eilat: Refugees' new life,” YnetNews, June 17, 2007,

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