Nathaniel in Europe/Israel -- Greetings from Tel Aviv!
Posted by Nathaniel Berman on Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 13:55 pm
This is part of a series of blogs by Nathaniel Berman, as he reports on his travels to HIAS' operations in Austria, Ukraine, and Israel, as he joins HIAS' Board of Directors on the 2010 Europe/Israel Mission.
We spent an incredible Shabbat in Kiev, and had the chance to meet up with my fellow Young Leader and HIAS Board Member Valentin Povarchuk, who was coincidentally in Kiev for business. We had the chance to make home visits to refugees that HIAS assists in Kiev, then we visited a facility run by Integration Centre at ROKADA Charitable Fund (a human rights agency supported by UNHCR, which provides services for Afghan refugees). We then took a tour of historic and Jewish Kiev, including one of the old synagogues in the neighborhood and the childhood home of Golda Meir. Finally, we had a very nice closing dinner at a Georgian restaurant before departing for the airport and our flight to Tel Aviv.
When we arrived in Tel Aviv, we were immediately met by Joel Moss, the director of HIAS Israel. We met with the Israeli Ministry of the Interior’s Refugee Status Determination (RSD) Unit, then took a walking tour of South Tel Aviv, where many asylum seekers and foreign workers live. Some of the tour highlights included the computer store of one Sudanese refugee, the Bialik Rygozin School (which has a large “foreign” student population), and a formerly Persian neighborhood that now houses many African and Asian communities including people from the Phillipines, Nepal, and Thailand.
After a quick falafel lunch in a store that had been bombed two years ago, we met with some of HIAS’ non-profit partners in Tel Aviv such as ASSAF (an aid organization for refugees and asylum seekers which was founded in early 2007) and the African Refugee Development Center. We then visited HIAS’ Israel offices and had the chance to meet with various African clients who shared their heart-wrenching stories. After a couple of hours of much-needed down time, we had a dinner with HIAS staff, legal colleagues, and interviewers for the Assisted Voluntary Return Program.