Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Adam Abdallah's Speech

Before Section II left Bat Yam, Adam, the English teacher at the Darfuri family center, passed along a speech he was about to give about the background of Darfur and his own personal story.  In the past several months, all of Garin Tzedek in Section II felt inspired by working with Adam, and it's only fitting that everyone should know why:

If you want to know what it feels like, ask a patient not a doctor. (Arabic Proverb)
My name`s Adam Abdallah and I belong to Fur tribe; the largest tribal group in Darfur.
Darfur ,which means the house of Fur, was named after the Fur tribe. It was a kingdom until 1916. It lies in the extreme west of Sudan. The Republic of Chad, Libya, and Central Africa are the neighbouring countries. The area of Darfur is approximately 196,404 sq miles and it occupies one fifth of the area of Sudan. It is larger than Egypt and it equals the area of France. So many tribes live there such as Fur, Masalit, Zagawa, Borno, Dajo, Arabs, etc..
There are some tribes intermixing with Chad, Libya, and Central Africa . Darfur Region has never been known to refuse people from outside Darfur. Thus it became an intermixture of different tribal and ethnic groups. These inhabitants, with all their different Arab and African roots, are 100% Muslims. This made the region more colourful.
Some experts describe the Darfur conflict as a tribal war, saying that it is just between the farmers and the cattle breeders. If it is just as they say, why is the government involved in that fight ?
Since I was a child, our parents in the village often told us not to leave the village while they were away for fear that we might be kidnapped. That was in early 1960s. In the country, it is quite usual that adults do not stay at home during the day. They either go to the farms or to the neighbouring villages for one reason or another. Children were kidnapped by the above mentioned nomads. Soon after that, it was in early1980s, another phenomenon emerged: Armed Robbery. People in military uniforms, from cap to boot, robbing on the roads, attacking and burning homes and villages, raping women and girls, even burning children alive, looting animals and killing these simple and traditional peasants in the cases of resistance. There was also a deliberate destruction of crops and cattle. Community leaders, merchants, teachers, and the most outstanding people were targeted. They have been detained, tortured, and killed. It`s been six years since the war started, and Darfurians have become either displaced or refugees in other countries. Despite the international demands to end the brutality, the government of Sudan and its Janjaweed continue restrictions on humanitarian assistance, attacking aid workers and expelling aid organizations. Diseases spread and the situation is totally worse.
My personal story:
I was born in a small village called Sulo.This village no longer exists. My father died when I was a primary school boy of 7. It was my mother alone who brought me and my seven sisters up. When I graduated from Khartoum University in 1988, I went back home to work as a teacher and support my family. I was appointed as a community leader. The same year, in november 1988, a war started between the Arabs and the other tribes in Darfur. On 25/11/1988 my village was attacked. It was early in the morning while we were fast asleep. The Arab miltia surrounded the village and set fire to the houses. Of course, houses in Darfur are huts. They`re made of grass and straws, so they are easy to burn. 154 people were killed and dozens of them were injured. My mother was killed that day and I was wounded. Others ran away to the mountains and other villages to seek protection. Everything was taken from the village: goats, sheep, camels, cows, horses, donkeys, all possessions and even hens. Farms were burnt. Nothing was left. In a couple of days the people of the village came back and rebuilt it. Some of the people are still missing. There were a lot of widows and orphans. The third and last attack was on 29 January 2004. It wasn`t only my village which was burnt this time, but also the other ones. The government did this systematically. All the villages in the region were burnt down to ground. I decided to leave Darfur. I set out for Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. I thought it would have been safer for me. As soon as I got there, I was empolyed as a teacher for high schools. But suddenly, the government began arresting Darfurians, imputing that these Darfurians supported Darfur rebel groups. I felt that my life was in danger. I fled to Egypt. I started my journey to Cairo on 8 March 2004. I got my travelling documents by bribing the police officer. I arrived in Cairo on 11 March 2004 and I immediately went to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for protection. The date was set for the first instant interview: 25/7/2004. By 1/6/2004 the UN announced that there would be no more interviews for Sudanese claiming that Sudan and the Sudan People Liberation Movement /Army (a rebel movement in southern Sudan) have signed  peace agreement. But I made an appeal explaining that Darfurians have not been concerned with that peace accord. I stayed in Cairo for four years waiting for the first instant interview. Finally I decided to come to Israel. My wife and I and our two children started the journey from Cairo to Israel through El Arish. On 4/7/2007 we came to the Israeli Egyptian border. The journey took us four days. At the border we faced a very high barbed wire fence. I managed to climb it, but it was too hard for my wife and the children to climb. While I was trying to help them get in, the Egyptian troops arrived and caught them. They were taken to prison in El Arish. They stayed in prison for twenty five days. My wife was pregnant. She was tortured and she lost her baby due to that. Eventually she joined me. In conclusion, I would like to thank the government and the people of Israel for hosting us.

Despite Adam's warm regard for Israel, it's important to remember that the Darfurian refugees who arrive here are not necessarily treated well: many people in the society don't want them here, and the government often takes actions that impede their moving here, such as the IDF's previous policy of "Hot Return," which allowed border patrols to immediately return any Darfurians who have crossed the border within the last 24 hours and haven't gone farther than 50 kilometers into the country.  The government also makes moves against their staying here, such as the infamous "Gadera-Hadera Law," which prohibited African refugees and foreign workers from living in the central area bound by Gadera in the south and Hadera in the north, essentially blocking out Tel Aviv.  Thus it's clear that, while Darfurians have found a shelter in Israel, it is not necessarily a cooperative one.  Israeli society is very conflicted about the issue.

A Bittersweet Goodbye to Bat Yam

This past week Section II moved from Bat Yam to Arad. Last week we went to the center for the last time and said goodbye to our friends we have made in the Center. Adam was sad to see us go and really appreciated us coming for the past 2 months.Cera, Nathan, Ittai, and Emilie also had to say goodbye to the children's house and the families. It was sad.
Over the past 3 months Section II has done a lot in Bat Yam. We raised awareness by having a movie night with Adam's story as well as other Sudanese refugees highlighted in the film. Adam and Nick from ARDC also came to speak to us one Dessert and Discuss. We raised a lot of money from the Shabbat Dinner and selling snacks in between classes every day and attending the fundraiser at the Dancing Camel. And we hopefully made a difference, even if it was only a small one, in the lives of the Southern Tel Aviv Darfuri community. Section II Garin Tzedek also had a couple events to build kehila such as Rikud Night and a Tiyul.

Now we are in Arad and there is a lot of potential here. Currently we have Ittai and Laura working in Ganim, and David working in construction for their volunteering. Cera and Emilie are going to do social work for the Sudanese and work with the families trying to help them with specifics needs. Also the Business Track hopped on the Garin Tzedek train by making their business project in Arad helping Sudanese set up a business for themselves. At this moment it is projected that the Business Track will help them set up a coffee shop, so they can help employ themselves and gain some entrepreneurship.

Altough as a section we are sad to leave Bat Yam, Arad is full of great opportunities for the Garin and we are already on the path to taking advantage of them.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

So Long Arad!

The end of Sections three’s chapter in Arad is now in sight.  The volunteers here for Garin Tzedek are very sad to leave their friends from the Sudanese Community behind. Though Noah and I will be back every now and then to make sure everything is running smoothly, we will miss the day to day connection that we have held so close to our hearts these past three months. Though we are leaving we truly believe that we have made a magnificent contribution to the community, both on a personal and physical level.


Our first day Noah and I knew not what to expect walking through the doors of the first daycare, but now after three months, the Sudanese have become what we all  might refer to as our second family. Their accepting hearts and warm company drove us to work to great lengths to start figuring out how to jumpstart their community.


We are very proud to say after three months with two volunteers, young Judaea has decided that two volunteers is just not sufficient enough. Next semester there will be ten volunteer placements for the Sudanese. It’s hard to believe that two people could muster up enough energy to be the glue that their community needed to run smoothly. Though I (Sean MacDonald) must confess my thanks and undying love for Noah Berman. He has not only put his heart completely into this work, but has dedicated every moment of this program to be available to help. I would not have asked for a better person to work with, and Garin Tzedek would be nowhere today without him. As his reign in Arad ends, he will forever be irreplaceable to the community here.


Check frequently for updates in the Arad community and the work that section two is doing.  We are excited to see what ideas the new group will come up with, and to see the education system we have implemented grow.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Interesting Article On the Save Darfur Organization

The following is from Middle East Online, a far left news website that is often unfairly critical of Israel. While they have an extreme bias this article is still the beginning of a dialogue on how we engage in resolving the crisis in Sudan. Do not take the sweeping generalizations of the article without a grain of salt, but please post comments in response, we want to know what you think.

First Published 2009-10-29

'Conditions on the ground have changed'

Have US activists actually helped Darfur?

Analyst sees actions of US Save Darfur movement have had negative effect on people of Darfur.

NEW YORK - After months of deliberation, the Obama administration unveiled a new strategy for Sudan last week.

The White House plans to offer the Sudanese government a mix of incentives and pressure to urge Khartoum to end the crisis in Darfur and implement the 2005 peace deal between the north and the south.

"The US policy, I think, is first and foremost an acknowledgement that conditions on the ground have changed. It’s as Hillary Clinton said in her speech, the level of mortality in Darfur declined dramatically after 2005," professor Mahmood Mamdani from Columbia University, and author of Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror, told Democracy Now!.

"Second, it’s an acknowledgement that the US needs an integrated Sudan policy, not a separate policy for Darfur and a separate policy for the south of Sudan," he added.

The new policy appears to be a shift in how President Obama regarded the crisis during his election campaign.

Obama then "was responding to the domestic constituency in the US, particularly the Save Darfur movement," said Mamdani.

But "Obama now is responding to the situation in Sudan and to the realization that the ideological nature of Save Darfur demands has made for an extremely inflexible US response to Sudan," he added.

However, there is also a split in the Obama administration: on the one hand, Major General Scott Gration, Obama's envoy to Sudan; on the other hand, Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN.

"Susan Rice has been very closely related to the Save Darfur movement...The State Department has been hugely skeptical of the claims of Save Darfur movement," noted Mamdani.

There is also a deep division between activists who are much more central to the evangelical lobby, which is attuned to the South, and those organized mainly in relation to Darfur.

"The evangelical lobby is also worried that Sudan policy has been driven too much by a Darfur orientation," said Mamdani.

In addition, the Save Darfur movement has had a negative effect on the people of Darfur.

"The point of view of Save Darfur is that anybody who tries to explain the context of the violence in Darfur and to direct attention from atrocities to the issues that have been fueling the violence is doing nothing but apologizing for the violence," said Mamdani.

"My own point of view is that if you are interested in stopping the cycle of violence, you have no choice but to look at the issues that feed that violence. A focus exclusively on the atrocities is like creating and catering to a pornography of violence, which is what Save Darfur has been doing," he added.

"Save Darfur has no interest in teach-in. It has no interest in education, nor in educators. Its interest is in Hollywood celebrities. Its interest is in name recognition. Its interest is not even in the university students, less and less now, much more so in high school students, explained Mamdani.

"I call them America’s counterparts of the child soldiers of Africa: children led into causes without understanding them. I think there has to be a certain degree of critical focus on Save Darfur-type movements, that they do not really strengthen democracy, they weaken it," he added.

But despite official American rhetoric, US governments have had steady relations with Sudan on the war on terror.

"Relations between the two intelligence services have been strong," said Mamdani.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Videos From Sudanese Cultural Celebration

In Mid-October the Dinka tribe held a gathering at the Hotel Inbar to celebrate the forming of the new Sudanese committee of leaders for the community. There were more than 100 Sudanese in attendance and 20 other guests including 6 Garin Tzedek members. The celebration consisted of tasty foods and drinks, optimistic speeches, and energetic cultural dances. Here are some videos from the festival.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Arad Community Forging Ahead

In recent weeks there has been a lot of activity in the Arad Sudanese Community. As Garin Tzedek finishes construction on the new Community Center in Arad's industrial district English Classes have already begun for elementary school students, taught by Garin Tzedek members. Three days a week Yearcoursers spend an hour of their evening teaching the ABC's, reading, grammar, and vocabulary to 25 Sudanese Children. So far the program has been a great success and we hope to expand it in the near future.

In addition to the Childrens classes and the aduly classes soon to follow in the new center the Garin has been working on a number of other projects. We will be painting murals around Arad with Sudanese volunteers and are openning a clinic in December to deal with minor illnesses, first aid, and pregnancy and neo-natal health and education. Donations have begun to arrive, but we still need your help. Our goal is to have 3,000 NIS, or about $800 by December to pay for two months rent on a new daycare building. Look for pictures from all of our new projects soon and keep following, donating, fundraising, but most importantly TELLING YOUR FRIENDS about the Garin.

Shavua Tov, Noah

Friday, November 13, 2009

It's On!

Garin Tzedek has had an intense week in Bat Yam:

On Sunday, we began an exhilarating game of assassin.  For a meager 5 shekels, any Year Course chanich in Bat Yam could join in the game and help support the Darfuris in Tel Aviv.  In case you're not familiar, assassin is a game where each person has another person assigned to them with a specific task they have to get them to do in order to assassinate them.  For instance, if someone wore a hat all the time, the task to kill them might be to get their permission to wear their hat.  Once a person is killed, they must pass on their task to the person who killed them, until there is one ultimate victor.  In one short week, something like half of the participants have already been eliminated!  The conclusion in the next couple of weeks promises to be thrilling.

On both Tuesday and Wednesday night, many Garin Tzedek members went to the Darfuri family center in Tel Aviv to help teach the adults English.  This was done through personal and frank discussion, that was just as interesting for the volunteers as it was helpful for the Darfuris.  We hope that, through these triadic encounters, we can help the adults improve their spoken English and have more knowledge about their situation.  Many times, the adults have chosen to discuss Darfur, or their journey to and opinion on Israel, or even their future plans.  We also hung up some more signs for the gan!  The experience this past week has been a fulfilling and enlightening one, and we hope to continue it as our time ends in Bat Yam:


In addition, Wednesday night, the African Refugee Development Center (ARDC) in Tel Aviv held a benefit party at the Dancing Camel Brewery and Bar.  It was a fundraiser to send several African refugees to college at IDC Herzliya.  Garin Tzedek, along with many Year Course chanichim, attended in good fun:

If you're interested in hearing more about Garin Tzedek activities in Bat Yam, or would like to make a donation, please send an e-mail to  Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Dessert and Discuss"

This past Thursday, Garin Tzedek managed an event in Bat Yam that occurs weekly within the Year Course program, simply known as "Dessert and Learn."  Much of the time, Year Course arranges for people to come to the Ulpan and speak to chanichim about different issues, such as the water crisis in Israel or the Iranian nuclear threat.  This time, however, Garin Tzedek gave it the new, more alliterative name ("Dessert and Discuss") and invited two speakers: Nic Schlagman, a British man working with many African refugee communities in Tel Aviv, as well as Adam, the English teacher for adults at the Tel Aviv Darfuri family center:

Above, Cera Merrick talks to Nic and Adam about the refugee situation.

According to Nic, out of 17,000 African refugees in Israel, only about 300 of them are legally considered refugees and receive the rights associated with such a status.  The situation is a very controversial one, as many Israelis feel negative sentiment towards the refugees because they're not Jews.  Regardless of whether one thinks refugees should be here or not, however, it's our responsibility to help them.

If you're interested in donating to our hearing more about Garin Tzedek activities in Bat Yam, please send me an e-mail (

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Assorted Garin Activites in Bat Yam

Bat Yam Garin Tzedek members have certainly been busy in the past several weeks!  Two Tuesdays ago, on 10/19, a large group from the Garin went into the Darfuri family center in Tel Aviv to renovate one of the rooms.  They took the initial steps towards making the room a gan (kindergarten) for kids from the community.  The walls were painted, and many signs were made that have now been laminated and will soon be put up:

(L) Judith Wertheim, Melanie Rice, and Ari Kleinman preparing signs for the gan, (M) Ittai Eres putting up a "colors" poster, and (R) Nathan Chesterman and Laura Maschler painting were all part of a larger effort towards making the new room kid-friendly.

Expect to see an "after" picture of the room soon!

In the meantime, volunteering activity has continued with the community--both in working with individual Darfuri children in their apartments and helping to teach an adult night class.  It appears that soon more opportunities may open up for volunteering with the Darfuri community, perhaps even during the daytime.  Fund raising (via sale of food to Year Coursers at class) has also continued at an astounding pace.  With the money raised, the Garin Members in Bat Yam have bought necessary materials to help the Darfuri community in whatever way possible--indeed, the paint and other materials used in the renovation of the gan were all paid for through Garin-raised funds.

Last Friday night, the Garin also held a benefit dinner for the Darfuris.  For only 20 shekels, any Year Course participant who so desired came to the Ulpan and enjoyed a delicious Shabbat dinner consisting of soup, chicken, potatoes, and an array of fantastic desserts!  Dinner was cooked by various members of the Garin, and everyone had a great time after dinner at the "Whose Shabbos is it, Anyway?" oneg.  The dinner was, on the whole, a tremendous success:

(L) A large group of Garin members let their food digest. (R) Mikole Levran, Ben Klein, Nathan Chesterman, and Josh Steinman enjoy a fun game of "Party Quirks" during oneg. (B) Emilie Seckel and Cera Merrick look pretty for Shabbat dinner!

If you're interested in making a donation of any size to help fund Garin Tzedek activities in Bat Yam, please send an e-mail to

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Arad Fundraising Letter

The following is a letter we will be sending out en mass from the Arad section of Garin Tzedek. Many of us will be sending personal versions, but this is the basis:

Dear Friend,

I am writing to you from Israel, where I, along with 300 others, am on Young Judaea’s Yearcourse program. From September until June I will be volunteering and studying here in Eretz Yisrael and living as a member of Israeli society.

As part of my groups experience I have interacted with many segments of the population here. One group that few know about is the 15,000 or so refugees from Sudan and Darfur who have come to Israel as a last resort to escape the dangers of their homeland. As you may already know Sudan was involved in a civil war between the Arab North and Black African South for over 25 years. One result of this conflict has been the burning of South Sudanese and Darfuri villages leading to a mass exodus of over 2 million people from their homes. These refugees have fled all over Africa, including to Egypt. However, Egypt’s government and people have a generally negative attitude towards the refugees and a large number of Sudanese have been the subject of verbal and physical abuse as well as racial discrimination. Because of their inhumane treatment in Egypt, some have fled to Israel, seeking asylum in the Jewish State.

Here, feelings towards the refugees are mixed. Many Israelis see the Sudanese as uncivilized intruders from an enemy state, as Sudan has officially been at war with Israel since Israel’s independence, coming to steal jobs from Jews. Others strive to help the Sudanese community as humanists, Jews, and active Zionists. In our experience in Arad, I have become involved in the issue. Some Year Coursers have volunteered in their work time and free time to help with a local day care and in other projects in the Sudanese community. As a small town with scarce resources, many Aradniks are quick to point fingers at the Sudanese for issues within the town, even sometimes when the Sudanese are not to blame. I have seen with my own eyes the need for support from those Jews that see it as our responsibility to be a light unto the nations and help those in need. In Arad apathy and even antipathy came to a head when early last month, the landlord of a Sudanese daycare center evicted them, not for missing rent, but because he didn’t want them in his building. The police intervened and beat some of the women, and arrested others. While the Sudanese are not guiltless in this situation, they protested illegally in technical terms, this kind of behavior is inexcusable by any Jew, especially an Israeli police officer. Because I have high standards for the Jewish state and our responsibility to the world I have dedicated my time to this cause.

To instigate a change, my friends and I have started an initiative called Garin Tzedek, or in Hebrew, “Seed of Justice” to help the Sudanese community here and across Israel. As a Garin, (seed, or group) we are developing some projects with the refugee community in Arad including improvements to their daycare center, classes teaching Hebrew, English, and Computer skills, and much needed medical, school, and home supplies. We have high ambitions and a will to do great things, however to begin making the impact we desire to have we need your support. One aspect of my program is that my friends and I live relatively modest lives, eating on a stipend of 20 shekels, or about 5 dollars, per person per day. Despite the fact that I only brought 2 bags of possessions and don’t have the money for restaurants and television, I still look wealthy compared to many of the refugees in Arad.

I am writing to you to ask if you’d like to be a part of what we’re doing here in Arad by making a donation. The money you send will pay for school supplies for the classes my friends and I are teaching as well as Medical supplies, toys for small children, and utility bills for community centers. You can follow the progress of our project on the Garin Tzedek blog at to stay on top of the issue and see articles and photography showing how your donation is used. If you are going to visit Israel this year and would like to see any of our projects please feel free to leave a post on the blog and one of my friends or I will gladly give you a tour and introduce you to the Sudanese here. They are some of the most happy and grateful people, I promise you’ll get a huge hug and meet some of the cutest children you’ve ever seen. If you are interested in donating please send any cash or checks to the following address:

Young Judaea National Mazkirut

Hadassah House 8th Floor 50 W58th Street

New York, NY 10019

If you are writing a check please write it to Hadassah and put “Young Judaea Garin Tzedek” in the memo. Please include a note with your donation explaining who you are and who you heard about the Garin from. My friends are interested in meeting you and knowing who you are. Thank you for your time.


Garin Tzedek Arad



Monday, October 26, 2009

A Day Without Shoes

YC Section head, Rafi Weisz, YC director Keith Berman, and Hadassah's YJ Division Coordinator Shelley Sherman

Wednesday, October 21 was the first “day without shoes,” a day initiated by Young Judaeans in America including current National Social Action Programmer, Alexis Wojtowicz. All day across the States and here in Israel people went without shoes to raise awareness about the situation of Sudanese refugees across the world, especially in Israel. Why no shoes? Many refugees from Sudan, including Darfur, have had to flee their homes over the last 25 years at a moments notice, often times without any footwear, and have walked hundreds, if not thousands of miles barefoot through the deserts of Sudan. The following are pictures from Arad, Bat Yam, and Jerusalem of members of Garin Tzedek, Israeli citizens, and Sudanese refugees barefoot. We hope this day continues to be done yearly, or even monthly to continue to raise awareness.
Some Judaeans from America got in a local newspaper, here is the link

(L) Amani, age 4 (R) Garin Tzedek Member Adam "Ochel" McArthur (Top) Garin Tzedek Members barefoot in Bat Yam.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sudanese Community in Arad Holds Cultural Festival

Evan M. Gildenblatt
24 October, 2009

Arad, Israel - On an unusually cool Friday night in Arad, a sleepy town in Israel’s Negev Desert, a meeting took place in the reception room at the Hotel Inbar. Although not covered by news outlets or given any type of attention by the world at large, it was historic in a sense. In fact, many outside of the room did not know of its existence to begin with. The meeting was a tribal gathering for Arad’s Dinka community, a faction of the South Sudanese population that has sought asylum in the Middle East’s only democracy.

From suits and ties to traditional tribal dress, with half a dozen languages being spoken between the participants, the sheer diversity was overwhelming. The meeting was a first step in uniting the Sudanese community of Arad. Said a representative of the Committee of the Nuer Tribe in Arad (another South Sudanese sub-group), “We need to be leaders in Arad. In Israel. But first, we need to be united with each other.”

The meeting was complete with celebratory song and dance in which community members holding Israeli and South Sudanese flags sang along with excitement.

“We want to show the Israeli people that we want to be a part of their community and that we also want to defend Israel just like any other Israeli. We are misunderstood as a people of problems, but we are truly a people of peace,” said Mr. Joseph Kuc, the Vice General Secretary of the Dinka Tribe.

The Sudanese community in Israel is a mixture of refugees mainly from the south and west of the country. While some of them are fleeing the genocide in the western province of Darfur, others are fleeing deplorable conditions and government persecution in the south. Of the approximately 700 Sudanese refugees in Arad, there are significant populations from ten different tribes. They represent Christianity, Islam, and several different tribal religions.

The experience for the thousands of Sudanese in Israel has been rife with threats of deportation and difficulty in procuring social services. The fact that their home country of Sudan has technically been at war with Israel since 1948 only complicates matters further.

“It is difficult for them, but we do what we can,” said the priest presiding over the event, a man introduced as Father Salvamir from Poland. “It is difficult work for us, too.”

When asked what is the most integral part in becoming members of the Israeli society, the Chairperson of the Dinka Community - Brother Bieth Akuei - responded by stating that “We need to talk to each other. To let the Israeli people know who we are and to understand who they are.”

Although scheduled to conclude at eleven o’clock PM, the festivities were forced to an end by the hotel at quarter past ten. Despite the premature ending, the community leaders were quite satisfied with the progress made at the meeting. “It's representative to how self determination is the first step in solving problems,” said Noah Berman, an American volunteer with Young Judaea’s Year Course program and a member of Garin Tzedek, a Year Course subgroup committed to educating their peers and helping the cause of Sudanese refugees in Israel. "Even though we have a ways to go, it is nice to see the progress that is being made in the normalization of the Sudanese community in Israel."


Photographs from the event provided by Sean MacDonald 

Friday, October 16, 2009

Arad Sudanese Cultural Event

On Thursday, October 22nd the Sudanese community of Arad will be having a community wide event to display dances, songs, food, and general culture from Sudan. The community is not only very different than the Jewish, or really any other community, in Israel, but also has a large variance and diversity within itself. In Arad alone, a city with five to six hundred Sudanese there are three ethnicities, the Nuba, Nuer, and the Dinka, that are strongly represented, as well as the Keiga, Darfuri, and Bari and possibly more. In Sudan there are more than 500 tribes of mixed Arab, and African roots.

Although the planning for the celebration has suffered some hiccups with logistics, as well as the death of a close family member, still living in Sudan, of one the local leaders, it seems that the celebration will continue as planned. Some members of Garin Tzedek have had the fortune of being invited to attend the event, being held to celebrate the upcoming local elections that will be held within the Sudanese community. We're most definitely looking forward to it, and will have stories and pictures to post afterwards.

The elections, the stated reason for the celebration, are an important step for the Sudanese in Arad. The current leadership was not elected in any way, but instead self appointed because they were among the first 51 Sudanese to be placed in Arad and were given a permanent residency status. In the upcoming vote, slate for late October, each of the three largest ethnic communities will elect two leaders to serve on a joint council of six members. While the board will have no legal authority with the city of Arad or the state of Israel, their responsibility will be to represent the interests of the community. These main issues revolve around legal status and protection for the community, the vast majority of whom need to renew their visas every three months. The lack of permanent status is the root of many other issues with employment, housing, and general acceptance within the community. The Arad section of the Garin is working with some leaders, and will hopefully meet with the new council to discuss different projects to help tutor children and parents in English, Hebrew, and computer skills, to set up speaking engagements at schools in Arad, and to establish repeated community volunteering projects for the Sudanese community to help themselves and other sectors in Arad, hopefully improving their image in the city. This celebration should hopefully signify a new beginning in the community and is sure to be delicious, entertaining, and educational.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fundraising in Bat Yam

Today, the Bat Yam section of Garin Tzedek sold food for the first time in between classes to raise money for Darfuri communities in Israel. Here are some pictures of both the fundraisers and the Year Course students enjoying their break-time snacks:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pictures from the Gan (Pre-K) on 17 Chen Street in Arad, Israel

Babo, age 2.5 and volunteer Sean Macdonald, age 18

Nyantuk, age 3 and volunteer Noah Berman, age 18

Abova, "The old lady" and day care volunteer

Cookie, age 4

Amani and Nyantuk, age 3


GARIN TZEDEK is an unofficial group of participants in Young Judaea's Yearcourse program in which students spend ten months volunteering and studying in Israel dedicated to enhancing their experience throughout the year by dedicating themselves to committing cognitively and physically to volunteering around the country with refugees from Southern and Western Sudan (Darfur). We hope that by being ever aware of how we can best contribute to the country and the cause of these refugees we will make a real difference for the better in the country and in our own lives.

Dan Dennet says that the key to happiness is finding something more important than oneself and dedicating oneself to it. This is our chance to do so. Far too many participants of our program and people in general are willing to float through opportunities taking the path of least resistance, however we wish to consciously do what might be slightly harder, but certainly more rewarding. We hope to improve the self-sufficiency of the South Sudanese and Darfurian communities in Israel and to bring awareness to the entire Jewish world of their existence to begin a vigorous debate of the role of the Jewish People and the Jewish State in their rescue from genocide.

The issue of Darfurian and Sudanese refugees in Israel, a highly controversial one, is what we are focusing on during our year in Israel, but we hope that our members continue to take the lessons and experiences we gain this year and apply them for the rest of our lives whether in Israel, the United States or elsewhere.