The Illegal Immigration Dilemma Facing Israel
In recent months, tension has been mounting over what to do with the thousands of illegal immigrants from hostile African nations that have flooded into Israel, especially creating tensions in southern Tel Aviv. In some ways, the situation resembles the problem that the US is facing in dealing with illegal Mexican immigrants. However, the problem is made even more complex as some of these immigrants could actually be considered refugees, despite entering illegally, and many of the rest have arrived from enemy states that Israel has no relations with, regardless of whether they are true refugees or not.
Most of the estimated 65,000 illegal immigrants hail from Sudan and Eritrea, with others arriving from South Sudan, Ghana, Nigeria and other African states. Some legitimately fled from persecution and violence, possibly due to being Christians in a Muslim state or being part of a persecuted people group. However, others are only seeking better financial opportunities and when they arrive, they find that they can only work on the black market, leading to a rise in crime. Even though most of the immigrants are not involved in crime, many have resorted to crime due to their dire circumstances and some have even been responsible for several high-profile rapes of Israeli citizens.
For this reason, many residents in areas with a high concentration of illegal immigrants have begun to pressure the Israeli government to deport them all and to clear these areas of crime. Furthermore, some Israelis have begun to lump all of the immigrants into one group, labeling them as criminals and tossing around the word “infiltrators” in describing all illegal immigrants, implying they are all enemies of Israel. Sadly, this has incited violence towards African migrants in a few cases and has sparked a great debate in Israel in finding a solution.
It seems the country has become polarized into two extremes, with some Israelis desiring that all African immigrants be treated as enemies and be either arrested or deported, even resorting to downright racism, while others wish to help the migrants and are against deporting any of them. Likely, neither solution is just or wise and the issue will probably be discussed for years to come. One of the problems is that Israel has never formulated a specific refugee policy as, a generation ago, most Israelis had been refugees at some point and the idea of taking in other refugees seemed very unlikely. So, the process of differentiating between “economic” illegal migrants and those who have fled dire persecution has not been established. Furthermore, it is difficult to determine the facts in cases where people were smuggled across the border and sometimes lack documentation or proof to even back their story up, regardless of its validity or not.
This has truly created a crisis in Israeli society with many people losing patience with the government’s inability to change the situation. It is clear to all that the status quo is not acceptable, with illegal immigrants receiving no documentation but also not being deported, leading to an accumulation of unemployed and even homeless people. Many Believers have had a difficult time knowing where to stand on the issue, as we know that God repeatedly commands us to treat the foreigner well and even places depriving the foreigner of justice in a list of sins that includes sorcery and adultery (Malachi 3:5). However, we also know that it is realistically very difficult for a nation about the size of New Jersey to take in 65,000 immigrants. Many believers actually give service to refugees but also believe that there needs to be a limit to who is given a legal status in Israel. In the end, we will need to trust God with Israel’s future, while praying that Israel’s leaders make wise and just decisions.
- That Israeli leaders will come to a wise and just solution that will both consider the circumstances of the immigrants, while also doing their best to protect Israeli citizens
- That Israelis will have a revelation about the complex situation without reacting in racism or violence, but rather channel their energies into creative community solutions
- That the immigrants would experience the love of our Messiah as they face uncertainty and some face dangerous situations in their home countries and that they would receive peace from Him.
- That those who are involved in violence or crime on both sides (illegal immigrants & extremist Israelis) would be brought to justice and come to repentance for their acts
- That the enemy would not use this to further divide Israelis or cause more instability, especially since Israel is already surrounded by enemies.
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