}

A Refugee’s Plight: In Search of Miracles

My friend, onion-picking buddy and former Taglit-birthright israel co-madrich, Shaanan Meyerstein sent me the following and I thought it would be important to share with you all.

Adam with Shaanan (right)Looking at Adam’s clothing, you would never believe the obstacles this young man has overcome. Three years ago, Adam , an African Muslim, escaped from the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. Leaving his family of 7 brothers, sisters and parents behind, Adam set out by foot, at times crawling, making the trek from his terrorized village in Sudan via Egypt, through the vast expanses of the Sinai desert. Adam knew that his fate would be torture and death if he were caught by Egyptian or Sudanese authorities along the way. He reflects on the final destination of his journey –Israel– as a miracle.

Adam’s perspective is that his whole journey is “miraculous.” From his own religious perspective, he believes it is miraculous that G-d has protected him from danger and has brought him specifically to Israel because he knew the Jewish people would treat him compassionately, given their own history of suffering. Adam knew that Israel has proven itself on so many other occasions: taking in refugees escaping persecution such as the Vietnamese boat people in 1977, the ethnic Albanian Muslims from Kosovo in 1999, not to mention being among the first to offer emergency aid and send rescue teams to assist in earthquake and flood recovery, as well as sharing with the developing world their expertise in agriculture, technology, medicine. Adam knows of the importance of social justice and ‘tikkun olam’ ‘fixing the world’ in the Jewish tradition, and is aware of the way in which Israel has repeatedly remained steadfast to these ethics in its short history.

These days Adam isn’t wearing normal clothing; instead, for the last 60 days he has been wearing a white gown marked with the insignia of Soroka Hospital of the Negev. Adam believes that even his hospital gown is the greatest of the miracles. Within his first month in Israel, Adam was diagnosed with Leukemia; he believes that G-d brought him to Israel, a country with one of the most superb healthcare systems and medical knowledge in the world, to battle his cancer and be healed. His doctors repeatedly emphasize that if he was still in Sudan, he would already be dead. The doctors explain that he will need a full year of treatment, including multiple rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, and occasional hospitalizations. But the physicians are optimistic and believe that he has a very strong chance of complete remission IF he completes his treatment. But the situation isn’t quite so simple.

As the 50 million Americans who live without health insurance know all too well, care comes at a great cost, and Adam unfortunately has fallen “between the cracks” of the system. He has no status in Israel other than being considered an illegal infiltrator from an enemy country. Adam was detained by the Israel Defense Forces when he crossed the border and has been jailed in the Ketziot military prison for over three months.

Currently, the prison is paying for his hospitalization and associated medical and treatment costs. This will only last so long. Adam, along with 500 other Darfurian refugees in Israel have been promised by the government that they will be granted official refugee status and be allowed to stay temporarily in Israel. At that time, he will be entitled to some degree of medical coverage; this stage however, will not be anytime soon.

When the prison releases him, he will be left on the street without anyone to cover his cancer treatment which is estimated to be at least $50,000. Appeals have been sent to the Ministry of Health to consider Adam’s unique situation as a refugee escaping genocide, and provide medical insurance for him. The Ministry has yet to respond to the request and there is not much hope that they will come to Adam’s aid.

The refugee situation in Israel is a very complex and emotional issue. This appeal is not to evaluate the government’s immigration and refugee policy. Nor am I trying to oversimplify the economic reality in a country that continues to fight a multi front war, struggle to pay its teachers, and provide sufficient welfare to its own holocaust survivors. Under the constraints of a limited health-care budget, the Ministry of Health on a daily basis must make life and death decisions about providing or denying care to its own citizens.

We as Jews in the Diaspora must view Adam’s situation in the same way as he views it: miraculous. The miracle is that Adam has provided us, the Jewish community, with the opportunity to save a life; the life of a human being fleeing persecution that we as Jews know all too well. If the Israeli government is not willing or able to rise to the challenge for whatever reason, then someone needs to fill that void. Please find it in your hearts to help Adam by making a contribution that will go towards covering his medical care.

Please make checks payable to:

Baltimore Board of Rabbis
Israel Darfur Refugee Fund

Address:
Baltimore Board of Rabbis
5750 Park Heights Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21215

(registered 501C3 organization)

Baltimore Board of Rabbis is supported by the The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore)

All donations are tax deductible. Also, if you would like to email Adam and send him good wishes I am sure he will be delighted to hear from you. If you would like email updates from Adam over the course of the year about his progress please indicate your desire to be on the list serve. If there are any questions, please contact:

Shaanan Meyerstein at shaananmeyerstein@gmail.com

Thank you for your time and thoughtful consideration of this request.

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8 Comments

  1. 6tonsloth

    12/7/2007 at 9:49 am

    Is this Adam who goes to high school in Haifa?

  2. Chezi

    12/7/2007 at 9:51 am

    How does a Sudanese guy from some tiny village in Darfur come to know all of the great things Israel has done, the compassion of the Jewish people, etc., and have them serve as his motivation to flee?

  3. Sarah

    12/7/2007 at 11:49 am

    Chezi, I was wondering the very same thing. (Nice artwork, BTW.) Regardless, I wish that Adam will be well taken care of and that he’ll have a speedy and complete recovery.

  4. 6tonsloth

    12/7/2007 at 12:55 pm

    I can’t see the photo very well, but if that is the Adam who I know, while hard to believe, yes, he is that wonderful and yes, he does have that much faith in Israel and the Jewish people. In the time that I spent with him, I saw that Adam is an angel. He is so generous and always smiling. I never heard a negative tone or word from him, and never saw a scowl or even a shadow on his face…despite everything he has gone through. Can you imagine, being a teenager and having cancer, and not having your mom around, not knowing at all where your mom is?? Can you even imagine?

    I am going to do everything I can for Adam.

    And by the way, the Darfuri people have heard about Israel…many through cell phones. They’ve heard that in Israel they’ll be treated as humans, a miracle to them. They ARE motivated by this, of course! When you’re fleeing from genocide in your own country and then being treated as animals in Egypt, you will risk everything to get to Israel, and many of them do. They spend all the money they have to get to the Israeli border, where they will probably be shot at by Egyptian border guards. They take their kids with them on these terrible, risky journeys because, even with all the risks, they’re a million times better than staying in Sudan or Egypt. Even when they knew they would end up in Israeli prison, they chose that over staying in Egypt. And the reputation of Israel motivates them once they’re in Israel too. I met a woman who had lost children on the journey, when they were beaten up by Egyptian police and died along the way. She had a horrible time crossing the border. But after being in Israel for just a short time, she gave birth and named the child Yisrael. And Adam is insistent upon going into the IDF as soon as he can.

  5. tzipi

    12/7/2007 at 10:32 pm

    I know this is weird, but Adam looks familiar, and I met a guy with a very similar story last summer (summer 06), also named Adam, at Kibbutz Ein Gedi. He was working on the kibbutz and we met him and hung out and had drinks with him. Maybe this is the same person??? We forgot to exchange contact info so I don’t know what he’s been up to or how he is.

  6. tzipi

    12/7/2007 at 10:34 pm

    Oh, I think I didn’t read this very closely. The Adam I met had gotten out of prison and was working (obviously, as I met him while he was working on a kibbutz).

  7. Terry Feld

    12/12/2007 at 2:53 am

    I recall the words of Rabbi Kahane. Boiled down, the sense of is better take the money and find a real Jew in need to spend it on.
    My personal experience is that all these will, in the end, revert to type. Don’t be suckers.

  8. ck

    12/12/2007 at 5:55 am

    Yikes Terry. This guy is going to die on our turf if he doesn’t get help. But if crass self-interest is the only thing you can relate to, at least think of how good it will make us look to help him. The PR value of that is worth more than $50k. Let’s also not forget that he came here fleeing from genocide. REAL genocide. Perpetrated by our enemies.

    Kahane, who I met many times was a loon but he was also very bright – extremely intelligent. It seems neo-Kahanists have adopted all the crazy and none of the smarts.

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