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June 19-20 2020

Virtual Refugee Conference

The Community Education Project External link icon

South Tel Aviv, Israel

The refugee question is usually seen as European, Arab or African, Israel falling outside this category, in part because of its own political issues. Israel has nevertheless known various waves of refugee arrivals between 2005 and 2012, waves which ceased when Israel built a fence on its southern border. Today, Israel is ‘home’ to 40,000 asylum seekers, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea. Of these individuals, only six were recognized as refugees by the state (less than 1% compared to 80% recognition for the rest of the world). Although Israel has signed the UN Refugee Convention, it does its best to make their life unbearable - as a status-less, unrepresented group in Israel, refugees are caught in the middle of the state’s continued efforts to maintain a Jewish hegemonic identity. In this context, all attempts at self-organizing and self-empowering by the asylum seeker community living in Israel need to be supported. Ten years ago, members of this community living in the south of Tel Aviv initiated a project seeking to provide vocational training to their peers in order to advance their economic opportunities as part of the bottom scale work force. This entailed not only professional training, but also – and maybe mostly – improving language skills, knowledge of Israeli society and acquaintance with their rights as ‘authorized’ workers within the Israeli workforce. For over ten years, the Community Education Center has been proposing various evening courses to the migrant community of south Tel Aviv, thus helping individuals improve their life circumstances. But the Center is more than the sum of its courses; it is also a framework upon which the community can engage socially – most courses are taught voluntarily by members of the community itself – and encourage local leadership, providing positive social role models for the younger members of the community and strong community representatives to defend and promote the rights of this highly marginalized group.