The Right to Freedom\ "קצה המדבר" גיליון דצמבר

Having a home and family of our own is an aspiration shared by nearly everyone, but when Nour and Adam arrived in Israel from Sudan in 2011, that dream hardly seemed within reach. . כתבה: מרווה קובי | תרגמה: דב רייך | צילום: אלבום משפחתי


Most refugee stories involve considerable cruelty, yet Nour and Adam tell a tale full of hope and gratitude. We met to talk about their exhausting journey, the quest for safety and the right to find a home.

Adam al-Nour Hasan Abbas is 34 now. He was born in Al Fashir, capital of northern Darfur, and was 24 when he left Sudan. “Where I lived in Sudan, the place was in chaos. In 2005 we left with the family for Gazira [another state in Sudan], where things were calmer, and I worked there in restaurants. I got to Israel in June of 2011. My family remained in Sudan and by the time I arrived here, I had lost touch with them completely. There were no telephones like there are today and there was no way for me to contact the family. After eight or nine months, a relative found me on Facebook and connected me with the whole family. My younger sister was especially happy. We managed to talk for three whole minutes.”

How did you get to Israel?

“From Sudan I got to Egypt and then to the Bedouin,” Adam explains. “I was looking for someone who would take me across the border… They wanted six hundred dollars. I paid it, and waited for them to call me and tell me when we were leaving. Two days later we left, but I didn’t know where we were going. We kept switching cars.”

Nour’s story is in many ways similar. Nour Hebreyah Yacoub, who is also 34, also came to Israel in 2011 when he was 24. He was born in El Geneina in western Darfur and his family is still there. “I left Darfur in 2005 and went to Gazira where my mother’s sister was… My father sent us there to work and to get us away from all the upheaval. But I couldn’t stay in Gazira – they were having problems there too… So I left there, heading for Libya. We didn’t know where we were going. My father sold all his sheep and told me, ‘Take the money and go.’ I got to Libya and found problems there as well, but I couldn’t return to Darfur. I decided to go to Israel.”

Did you know anything about Israel?

“When I got to Egypt, I didn’t know where I was going,” Nour recalls. “I only heard about the place [Israel] and that it was like Europe. I just really wanted somewhere to go.”

Why did the two of you decide to come to Israel?

“I had friends who had gone to Israel,” says Nour. “I saw that there were Bedouin who could take me across. I had no money. They wanted a thousand dollars, so I worked for them first. [Later] they took us to Israel at night. Israeli soldiers caught us at the border… And they took us to Saharonim [a prison camp for asylum seekers, in the Negev desert] where I spent a month and a half. Then they released me – to Tel Aviv. I didn’t even know where that was. They bought me a bus ticket and told me: Get on the bus to Beersheba and from there to Tel Aviv. I got to Neve Sha’anan [where the Central Bus Station is] in Tel Aviv and I didn’t know a single person there. They just dumped me out and left. I stayed there about a month. I slept in the rain, outside, in the cold…”

“I remember,” Adam recalls, “when we got there from Holot [the detention camp near the Saharonim prison] on the bus and we didn’t even know how to get out of the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station complex. We walked around there for four hours. We didn’t know the language, we didn’t know English. Then we found a Sudanese guy who helped us. He took us outside and showed us the area. We slept on the grass. People who had money had an easier time and could eat a little. It was really, really hard at first.”

 

“I jumped straight up in the air,” remembers Adam, emotionally. “Nour said to me, ‘What’s going on? Are you freaking out?’ I told him, ‘I found my number [on the list]!’ And Nour said, ‘You’re kidding!’ So I waited for a phone call telling me to go there. Suddenly two days later they called me to come to the Interior Ministry.”  

 

You were on a journey of more than ten years. Do you feel now that you can breathe a little easier?

“I came to Eilat and since then there has been nothing bad. The kibbutz is a home,” declared Nour elatedly. “That’s how I feel, too,” says Adam. “I spent a week with a friend in Ashkelon and I was homesick for the area here. For the place. There’s a difference, and here is what I’m used to.”

Your families are still in Sudan?

“Yes,” replies Adam. “The situation is not so good. It is hard to talk with them on the telephone, except if someone is in the city or somewhere with reception. Every so often we get updated on what’s happening there. It never happens that everything is okay and calm, like here.”

What do you miss?

“I’ve been in this country 11 years already. My mother died last year,” Nour says, sadly. “I miss my father and my siblings. When my mother was still alive, I was more homesick.”

“I miss the family and my mother,” Adam says softly. “She’s the only person who, every morning when I get up, I pray to be able to meet again and kiss her. I want to see her…”

Do you have a dream?

Nour: “I dream that I’ll have a little house and children and can go on with my life.” Adam, smiling: “I dream of seeing my mother and my family and living like a human being. A family of my own, a house and children.”

Nour and Adam fled a hellish situation and found a home for themselves in Israel. Of course we find this very moving, but that is not really surprising in light of our own Jewish story, crammed with persecution, wars and disasters. Empathy is only to be expected from the Jewish people, reborn after a Holocaust in a country established to create a safe haven for themselves after a collective history of persecution over the ages. Still, at a time when there is war between Russia and Ukraine, when Israel like other nations is expected to make a moral and ethical decision on the question of whether and how to aid the civilians caught up in the war and bloodshed, it would seem appropriate to ask why the story of Adam and Nour is so exceptional and does not really reflect the wider reality here.

Author: Marva Kuby
Translator: Deb Reich


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