As a southern Tel Aviv resident, I am the last one to complain about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s and Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s quest to expel infiltrators. The opposite is true. It isn’t pleasant to raise children in an area where dozens of young, bored men walk around aimlessly, sleep in parks at night, and gather in large groups in the evening.
On one hand, your heart goes out to these miserable souls, who could not find a place in the world where they can live, get established and develop. On the other hand, I agree that this problem isn’t ours. It is not love for Zion that brought them here, but rather, a wholly private desire to improve their lives. And as we are still a small country surrounded by enemies, unemployment in South Sudan is not our problem.
All of the above is true in the rational, practical level. Yet the thing is that the Torah – the same one that Netanyahu draws his diplomatic and political strength from regularly – details precisely how we should behave when a wretched soul, be it a foreigner, an orphan or a widow, knocks at our doors.
You want some example? Here goes: “You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am the Lord your God.’” (Leviticus 24:22); “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33); “At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied.” (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)
And here is a verse that will be particularly relevant for Netanyahu: “Your rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.” (Isaiah 1:23)
And so, the government’s decision to expel the infiltrators may be appropriate on the practical level, but at least I have no delusions: As Jews, we have failed. Not only because we ignored the plight of foreigners, but because we chose to turn our backs on one of the most prominent and noble moral decrees in the Torah.
So next time we shall be asking ourselves what exactly is the meaning of us being Jews, it will be even harder to provide a real answer.