The Untold Story Of Racism Against Israel’s African Refugees
As a social worker in south Tel Aviv working with African asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan, I have seen my fair share of racism and opposition from Israeli politicians and residents in these neighborhoods. Let’s be clear on one thing, south Tel Aviv is not a utopian oasis. It has always been a rough and tough area, neglected by the Tel Aviv municipality. Walking through these neighborhoods, you see piles of trash everywhere, junkies with homemade crack pipes, homeless people living in the parks, and a stench of urine follows you. The only difference between now and 10 years ago is that you now see African people on the streets and African kids playing in the parks because they live in these neighborhoods.
I moved to Israel three years ago to do trauma work with African asylum seekers and torture victims who were kidnapped and trafficked in the Sinai. Eritrean and Sudanese refugees fled brutal and dangerous dictatorships, forced conscription, civil wars, and threats for being human rights activists. Those who were kidnapped, trafficked, and brutalized in Sinai torture camps run by Bedouin tribes were only released when their already impoverished families paid a $40,000 ransom fee. The lucky ones who made it across the Israeli-Egyptian border were severely traumatized, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Upon arrival in Israel, I was warned that the mainstream sentiment towards this community was blind racism. When I was looking for my first apartment in Tel Aviv, a landlord asked me where I worked. I told him that I am a social worker working in south Tel Aviv with Eritreans and Sudanese. He rolled his eyes and said, “Just don’t bring any of those dirty Sudanese into the building, OK?” On several occasions, when walking in the Hatikva neighborhood with my clients, older residents would shout at me saying, “What are you doing with those infiltrators? You probably sleep with these jungle people.”