William Hamilton

Today’s Wandering Arameans

When a wandering Aramean (Syria resides on biblical Aram) is someone else’s father, we still have a moral obligation to identify with and care for her or his vulnerable plight.  Israel understands this.  Beyond the well known Field Hospital saving lives on the Golan Heights border, daily humanitarian heroism is demonstrated by IsraAID on the shores of Greek Islands. 

The enormity and complexity of the crisis defy simplicity.  But it is less about boots on the ground than it is about heads in the sand.  Among the nearly 5 million refugees produced across the blood-soaked lands of Syria, the United States has taken in over the past 5 years approximately 2,500 of them. Canada accepted 25,000 of them last month alone.  If we continue to avert our gaze, then, as Leon Wieseltier and Michael Ignatieff recently wrote, “The ruins of our own integrity will be found amid the ruins of Aleppo.”   Are we the world’s policemen?  Of course not.  Even if we thought we were, indifference to duty would have disqualified us long ago. 

True, a minority of those fleeing have demonstrated themselves to be bad actors. Refugee proximity to European terror and to obscene spikes in incidents of rape throughout Scandinavia are undeniable. But more undeniable is the reality that the vast majority of the refugees are not terrorists, they are victims of it. Consider some first hand testimony.  There is little honor for the United States in continuing to be the world’s most powerful bystander. 

With the arrival of Passover, may our founding Exodus story reawaken our association with today’s wandering Arameans. 

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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