To our dear friends in Denmark,
Happy New Year! All of us here at Orr Shalom hope that 2021 brings about more revealed blessing and goodness – for Israel, for Denmark, for the whole world. As I reflect on 2020 and its challenges, I am brought back again and again to the feeling that while this pandemic has caused so much distress and anguish – which cannot be downplayed – it has also, in a way, brought us closer together. We are facing the same disease: separately, but together.
In Israel, there are many different types of people living together: Jews from all different backgrounds; Arabs from all different backgrounds; Christians; Muslims; immigrants from the world over; and also approximately 36,000 refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers.
Leviticus 19: 33-34 states: When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
This is a commandment that is repeated over 30 times throughout the Hebrew Bible. The fact that it is repeated so often shows its grave importance.
Yanai and Yagel (please note names have been changed to protect privacy), whose mother is a refugee from Sudan. For many complicated reasons, their mother was unable to care for them, and so 10 years ago, at the age of 5 and 6, they were referred to Orr Shalom. Their loving foster family, who have watched them develop, overcome, and grow, have made sure that the boys and their biological mother have maintained contact and a good relationship. The mother and her children were here illegally, without any standing, and while the State of Israel agrees to care for children in these circumstances, their obligation ends when the children turn 18, at which point they are sent back to their country of origin. While adoption in Israel is incredibly rare, Yanai and Yagel’s foster parents were able to adopt the boys with their mother’s approval. Yanai and Yagel are now Israeli citizens, fully integrated into Israeli life. They have had the opportunity for a happy childhood filled with loving memories. They will serve in the IDF, they will go to University, and they will be ful and equal partners in building a strong and just Israel.
Orr Shalom is driven by this principle: we ensure that we care for all children in need of our protection and interventions, regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity. Approximately 40 children in our Foster Program are the children of refugees, migrants, or asylum seekers who have no legal standing in Israel. The State of Israel takes responsibility for these children, even though they are not citizens, until the children reach the age of 18; and Orr Shalom provides each and every child in need of our loving care with everything they need to have a chance at a happy childhood and a productive adult life in the future. Each and every child is a precious soul, a whole world unto his or her self, and each one is deserving of opportunities previously denied to them.
Thank you to our dear friends in Denmark for helping us to fulfill the commandment of caring for the strangers who sojourn among us.