Big news -- On Monday night 9 Eritrean female asylum seekers and their 10 children were released from a detention center in Israel. The asylum seekers had not committed any crime, but were facing indefinite detention for entering Israel without proper documentation.
In recent years Israel has been struggling with how to manage an influx of refugees from Sudan and Eritrea. There are no simple answers to the dilemmas posed by the needs of the refugees, but certainly locking up children is not the answer.
The release of these families is a step towards a better Israel. And it’s a testament to the impact of NIF’s work to build a more just and equal society.
Here is a photo of Solomon, two years old, reunited with his father. Solomon was released after being imprisoned for one year with his mother:
This change did not happen all on its own. Israeli activists -- backed by the New Israel Fund -- kept this issue on the public agenda. And they pursued a legal strategy to press the Interior Ministry to release the children on humanitarian grounds.
The breakthrough came last week. Raya Meiler, an Israeli attorney, argued in court that two Eritrean girls she represents should be released because that’s what’s best for the children. No child should be forced to grow up behind cement walls and steel bars.
The court agreed. It ordered the girls and their mother set free. Yesterday's release of the remaining Eritrean children from detention -- including two-year old Solomon -- follows from this precedent. Our hope is that the remaining refugee children in detention, from Sudan and other countries, will also be released soon.
You and I know that social change is never easy, but it’s what NIF does: We invest in Israelis committed to the principles of equality and democracy. We support organizations working for a better Israel. And we provide training and advice to these social change activists so that they can be as effective as possible.
The impact of our strategy is clear when you look at the players behind this story:
Raya Meiler -- the attorney who successfully argued that children should be released from detention -- is a recent graduate of NIF's Law Fellows program. This program is an investment in the next generation of Israeli civil rights lawyers.
The Hotline for Migrant Workers -- the organization that Raya works for and which coordinates much of the work regarding the rights of asylum seekers in Israel -- got its first ever grant from NIF 13 years ago and continues to receive NIF support.
And none of this would be possible without individuals like you. Individuals who care about equality and democracy in Israel, who know that we can accomplish more when we join together than we can apart, and who care enough to invest in Israelis working to help Israel to be a more free and open society.
Thank you for being a part of this community.
P.S. -- Here's what Raya emailed us about the value of the Fellowship that NIF sponsored: "The broad legal knowledge I picked up during my year at the Washington College of Law was a huge help in my work on these cases. So NIF also has a place of honor in these victories."
This is your victory too.