Pesach is right around the corner. And while Israel will go through the motions of the holiday, it won’t reach the spirit of Passover. Why?
Israel has lost its moral compass.
I’m not talking about Gaza, the Occupation, or 1948, although the expulsion of the Palestinians is where Israel’s steps first foundered. With Pesach in mind, I’m talking about how Israel is treating the strangers in its land.
The Oz Unit, an arm of the immigration police, is on the streets now cracking down on illegal residents and those that employ them. The campaign, part of Israel’s ongoing attempt to rid the country of non-Jewish foreigners, has been given the revolting name "Clean and Tidy", evoking images not of law enforcement but of ethnic cleansing.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Oded Feller, an attorney with the Association of Civil Rights in Israel remarked, “The state authorities are of course entitled to enforce the law; what we oppose is the disgraceful language that accompanies these sorts of operations. Human beings are not dirt.”
The Jerusalem Post continued, "Feller said names like ‘Clean and Tidy’ incite hatred of foreigners, and added that it is shameful the government chooses such titles for its operations."
During Pesach, a holiday that commemorates the ancient Hebrews’ flight from oppressive conditions in Africa, we read the Exodus portion of the Torah, which includes the reminder: “You shall not oppress the stranger, for you know the soul of the stranger, having been strangers in the land of Egypt.”
It is shameful to me that Israel will speak these words out of one corner of its mouth while saying "Clean and Tidy" with the other side. Rather than caring for the foreigners in our midst, as Judaism instructs us to, the state is attempting to sweep them away. Considered fair game for deportation are children who were born and raised in Israel, African refugees who have fled war and genocide, and foreign workers who have lost their visas simply because they are were victimized by the flying visa scam—which the government is aware of and does nothing to stop.
This isn’t a state guided by Judaic values.
The Conversion Law, currently making its way through Knesset, also flies in the face of Jewish tradition. Under the proposed legislation, some converts—people who were once strangers but now stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Jewish people—will no longer have a home in Israel. According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the bill includes a provision stating that those "who convert in Israel will only receive automatic citizenship if they were entitled to immigrate under the Law of Return."
This means that even those who convert in Israel, under the auspices of an Orthodox rabbi, would still need to prove that they have at least one Jewish grandparent.
Taken together, the message of the "Clean and Tidy" campaign and the Conversion Law is loud and clear: whether you are a stranger past or present, you aren’t welcome in the land of Israel. Unless you meet her increasingly stringent ethnic standards.