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An Asylum Journey to Israel - by Solomon Gebremariam

Last week, ARDC Board-Member & asylum seeker in Israel, Solomon Gebremariam, spoke to a group of Fintech professionals in Tel Aviv about his experiences as an asylum seeker in Israel and his journey here. Thank you to the Jewish Federation of New York for organising this gathering. Read some of his story below:

"Why Israel?" is often the question I get from people when I talk about my own experience as an asylum seeker in Israel. Why did I choose Israel over European countries or other western countries to seek asylum?

My answer is always the same. I did not choose Israel over these countries. I was forced to choose Israel the same as I was forced to leave home and escaped to Ethiopia. When I first left home, I did not choose Ethiopia over my home country. I had to leave home to escape the dictatorship and Ethiopia was the next place to flee. Ethiopia was not better and I continued.

The same goes for my journey to Israel from Libya. I was on my way to Europe but turned to Egypt and then to Israel from Libya after trying to cross the Mediterranean sea unsuccessfully. What got me to end up in Israel is the despairing circumstances in Libya. Libya was a dangerous place at the time, and still is. After hiding myself in the secret apartment I was living in in Tripoli, I could not try more attempts to cross the sea as the security threatened my life. I could not stay in Libya hiding myself day and night and with the thoughts of when the authorities or the smugglers will come and pick me up to prison or torture camps. I could not go back to Sudan through the same journey I took to arrive in Libya through the terrifying Sahara desert. It was a desperate time. It was unstable in Libya. At the same time, I had no guarantee or even much hope that Israel will give me protection. It was not a choice for me to come to Israel. It was the only option and I took a shot but I did not choose Israel over Europe.

For me, it was like that. Give it a try and see what life gives me. I knew on my way, I would face a situation that may end my life. I also knew that Israel might deport me from the border because at the time I was aware the Israeli authority had deported some of my fellow refugees when they landed in Israel. I was aware safety and the rights I was searching for were not guaranteed. Yet, I decided to see my chances through those despairing circumstances.

For me, Israel was not the promised land. It was a try when I found myself a trapped refugee who had no options to stay safe. I did not have the same hope and desire when I was coming to Israel as when I was trying to reach Europe from Libya because Israel was never my desired destiny in the first place.

Did I pick the option Israel over Libya or Egypt? Yes. But I did not choose Israel over Europe or other western countries. This is true for me, and true for most of my fellow refugees in Israel.

(All words by Solomon Gebremariam).


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