Eden fled her homeland, Eritrea, after being held in an underground prison as punishment for her husband leaving the country. With her seven-year-old son and four-year-old daughter, she made her way across the Sahara desert, hoping to find safety and refuge in Israel. They had almost reached their longed-for destination when Bedouin people-traffickers in Egypt’s Sinai desert took them hostage. As the only mother in the group of hostages, Eden was put to work cooking for hundreds of people who came through the underground camp. The food was meagre and there was nowhere to wash themselves or their clothes. The best she could do for cleanliness was to pick the lice from her children’s garments.
After a month Eden and the children escaped and completed their journey to Israel. But there they found a hostile government, apparently determined to make their lives unbearable and force them out of the country they had hoped would be their safe haven.
Eight years have passed since the family arrived in Israel after that terrible journey. But they still have no legal status; Eden has to renew her temporary visa every two months, and there is no state healthcare or trauma care for them.
Eden’s daughter, now 12, wants to be a nurse, but will never be able to do a job that requires certification because she will never be given Israeli citizenship. In three years’ time Eden’s son will be 18, and then becomes liable to be held for a year in the cruel Holot detention centre, where no one has enough to eat and Christians are not allowed to manifest their faith.
30,000 struggling to survive
This is the untold story of one Eritrean Christian family. There are around 30,000 Eritrean Christian refugees in Israel. The brutal regime of their homeland mercilessly hounds Christians of certain denominations, imprisoning them for years in atrocious conditions just for meeting together to pray. But things are little better in Israel, where they struggle to survive dreadful poverty that is largely the result of Israeli government policies.
Tightening the screw
While ordinary Israeli people are generous in donating to help the impoverished Eritrean refugees, the Israeli government makes no secret of its determination to oust them from the country. The screw is gradually being tightened. In May a new law made it harder for them to get jobs and reduced their take-home pay by more than 20%. Next year the limited periods in the Holot detention centre may, if the Israeli government is successful in its current negotiations, be replaced with indefinite periods in a real prison for those who are selected for deportation to Rwanda yet refuse to go out of fear for their lives.
Christmas – a time to remember refugees
With Christmas approaching, we turn out thoughts to our Saviour’s birth, remembering how Mary and Joseph fled as refugees with the infant Jesus to Egypt. Please think also of the Eritrean Christian refugees in Israel, deliberately pressured through poverty, and facing a desperately uncertain future in the new year.
Members of the Israeli public generously donate food and other items to an Eritrean Christian agency in Tel Aviv for distribution to the neediest Eritreans - mainly mothers with small children. But much more is needed.
Please give to help Eritrean Christians in Israel. Your donations to Barnabas Fund will be channelled 100% to the Eritrean Christian agency in Israel.
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