Monday, January 03, 2005

Ungrateful Israel?

There seems to be a row brewing in Israel over the pace at which the country is bringing over the Falash Mura, those Ethiopian Jews who converted (or whose ancestors converted) to Christianity and have now returned to their roots. In the meanwhile, riots are breaking out in the Jewish community compound in Addis, as reported by the JPost and today's NYT.
In the midst of all this, a sad story in Ha'aretz. Israel has ordered the expulsion of a 67 year-old Christian Ethiopian, who put himself at great risk to help dozens of Ethiopian Jews make Aliya in the late 70's-80's, when the Jewish Agency was not allowed to operate in the country. His own children were allowed to come to Israel because the state recognized they were in danger, and they converted when they got to Israel and became citizens. He has been living in Israel illegally with one of his daughters for some time.
Why does Israel seem so perenially ungrateful to non-Jews who have helped its people? You need look no further for this than at the case of the South Lebanon Army (SLA) fighters, who were shamefully abandoned once they were no longer 'useful'; it took more than four years until Israel finally gave them real rights in the country last month. The fact that Israel is willing to recognise Righteous Gentiles who helped Jews during the Holocaust -- people who didn't necessarily ever have any connection to Israel at all -- makes this behaviour even stranger. (Although some have pointed out that while Israel is willing to put up a symbolic plaque or plant a tree, it rarely offers practical help when it's needed -- eg. Israel was more than happy to bury Oskar Schindler on Har HaZeytim and carry his coffin through Jerusalem, but what about his wife Emily, who played a role as well, and who lived in notorious poverty in South America for years?).
The answer isn't racism, or they would have made sure that hundreds of thousands of Russian non-Jewish Olim couldn't enter the country. But I have no idea what it is....

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