Andrea Zanardo
The Zionist Rabbi your friends warned you about

Stories of migrants and refugees

This is the story of a refugee born in an African country, plagued by a cruel civil war. She and her family left the native village when she was 3 years old. After months of walking barefoot, the family ended up in a refugee camp, which they were then able to leave, to reach a democratic country.  After some time in an absorption centre, the family moved to a new accommodation.

Life was not easy, facing all the obstacles that African migrants meet everywhere, but the young girl was intelligent and motivated. She became a lawyer, she volunteered as an instructor for teenagers at risk, in the same neighborhood where she had grown up.  She led protests and demonstrations in defense of her community and started a career as a journalist.

The next step was politics, she ran for elections and became an MP. Now, she is a minister. The first African born, female minister of color, in her country. What an amazing lady, and what a great country, where all of this is possible.

Another story, in the same country. This man is the son of a family of North African refugees. He was born a few years after his immigrant parents settled in a provincial and very conservative town. Not the ideal place for a gay person, as this young man realized he was. He left the family when he was 18 years old, enrolled in the army, (like many of his fellow citizens) and started studying law at university. For years he worked in military security by day and studied law by night. Fast forward some years. This man is now the first openly gay MP in his country, he has set up an LGBT+ caucus in his own party. He is now Minister of Public Security, the first openly gay minister in the same government where the above-mentioned lady, a refugee herself, is now Minister of Immigration.

You may wonder which country this is, where these two wonderful stories of inclusion have taken place. And the answer is Israel.

You may wonder when these two MPs, an African-born woman and an openly gay son of immigrants, have become ministers in an Israeli government. And the answer is last week.

The Minister of Public Security in the new Israeli Government is 44 year old Amir Ohana, a member of the Likud (yes, the nationalist, chauvinist, right-wing party). Did you know it has an LGBT wing? The Minister of Immigration is Pnina Tamano-Shata, a former member of the Yesh Atid party, now of Kachol Lavan.

You may also ask, why the UK media didn’t inform you of these two historical achievements, but you probably know already.

Obviously, the fact that the new government may decide to change the postcode of a couple of Jerusalem neighborhoods is a matter of international relevance. Why should the media, Jewish or not, focus on such small details like the first  Jew of color becoming a minister, or the boring vicissitudes of a Mizrachi member of the LGBT community and Likud MP?  I mean, the media are already full of stories about these minorities in the Middle East!

Oh, well sorry, I was being sarcastic. It’s just that these (other) two Israeli achievements in the field of social inclusion are almost unknown to the British public, and I thought it was up to me, a rabbi, to inform the readers.

It’s a matter of fixing the world, or as we say: Tikkun Olam.

About the Author
Italian by birth, Israeli by choice, Rabbi of the largest synagogue in Sussex (UK). Uncompromising Zionist.
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