Refugees and Asylum Seekers

BINA: Jewish Support for Israel's Non-Jewish Refugees
 
******
Since BINA began its first community organizing work in south Tel Aviv in 2001 and established its first Secular Yeshiva in south Tel Aviv in 2006, BINA has always made a point of working with all of the diverse communities in our neighborhood, Jewish and not Jewish, Israeli and non-Israeli, as part of our commitment to the betterment of Israel and the Jewish concept of tikkun olam (repairing the world). When the first African asylum seekers begain arriving in south Tel Aviv, first from Darfur and then from Eritrea, BINA's staff and students were among the first to respond, bringing food and clothing to homeless asylum seekers in Levinsky Park, and organizing the first "Refugee Seders". As the needs of the community have changed, so has BINA's response. Today BINA's work with and for Israel's African refugees and asylum seekers comprises primarily the following:
******
- Direct Service: Every day, BINA sends dozens of volunteers to aid the most vulnerable of the asylum seeker community. BINA is the primary provider of volunteers for several NGOs in the neighborhood, who rely on our volunteers to carry out their daily work, but who do not have the resources to recruit, place and supervise volunteers on their own. BINA also has the advantage of being able to place a wide range Hebrew-speaking and English-speaking volunteers with diverse skill sets to meet different needs. Our volunteers work primarily with: children and youth at-risk (in daycares, schools and afterschool programs), the sick (in free clinics), women, and adults in general (through adult education classes, English and Hebrew language classes, etc.). BINA also provides space for NGOs and community activities in our campus in south Tel Aviv.
******
- Education, Advocacy, and Shaping the Discourse: BINA is the primary Jewish organization working to educate, advocate and change the Israeli discourse on refugees. While many political and religious leaders in Israel have used "Jewish" language in order to incite against non-Jewish refugees, BINA uses the depth of the Jewish tradition and transformative educational experiences in order to reshape the discourse and demonstrate Judaism's true compassion for refugees. Every year, BINA leads "learning-tours" of south Tel Aviv for thousands of Israeli high school students, teachers and IDF soldiers and officers - in which they engage with the diversity and complexity of south Tel Aviv, and with Jewish texts that address our responsibilities to refugees and strangers. Many of these learning-tours include a personal testimony from a refugee, which, for most Israelis, is the first time they get to meet a refugee face-to-face. Every Passover BINA also helps to organize the annual "Refugee Seder" a public gathering of Israelis and refugees, who together remember our respective Exodus stories and responsibilites to one another. These activities are vital in overcoming the stereotypes, stigmas, ignorance, xenophobia and fear that many Israelis have with regard to non-Jewish refugees, asylum seekers, and south Tel Aviv. In south Tel Aviv and beyond, BINA's education and advocacy work seeks to build an Israel, where to be a "Jewish state" means to be a state of compassion, solidarity, responsibility, and justice for all.
 ******
- Bridging and Co-Existence: While there are a number of organizations that work with either the African asylum seekers or with the Jewish-Israeli residents of south Tel Aviv, BINA is one of the few to work directly with both, working against the "zero-sum" and "us vs. them"  mentality that many Israelis have adopted. BINA has been working closely with the disadvantaged Jewish-Israeli residents of south Tel Aviv since 2001, and with the asylum seekers since their arrival in 2005, and has worked hard to earn trust in both communities, and to bridge between these groups, which are sometimes aligned and often at odds. When violent tensions erupted between the communities in 2012, BINA hosted a number of activities to bring diverse residents together, seeking a course of dialogue and shared existence over violence. More recently, BINA's work in the Botanic Gardens in south Tel Aviv, as well as our Community Beit Midrash in the Shapira neighborhood together have sought to bring south Tel Aviv's diverse communities to work together rather than at odds.
******