Moses led his people through the desert on the journey to the Holy Land.
Those who are coming now neither have a leader nor are coming for religious reasons. They are mostly Sudanese, Ethiopians and Eritreans who escape from their homeland because of war and violence. They regard Israel as a safe destination.
This is one thing these two exoduses have in common. Also, in the exodus of today, the Africans travel by foot.
One story I would like to share is the story of 21-year-old Hiyoba, who was, as many other children, kidnapped by the Eritrean army and forced into the life of a child soldier. Educated to be a sniper, he had to kill for the first time when he was only eleven years old. He got to eat only every three days and was forced into an unconditional obedience. Two times he was shot by a bullet, one streaked his head. Only with luck he survived. In total, he was a soldier for 10 years, until he was finally able to succeed in his escape to Israel.
Nightmares and scars on his body and soul are reminders of this past. How many people he killed, he doesn’t know, but he dreams of a future.
As a deserter, he lived for five months in poor circumstances in an Ethiopian refugee camp. The escape to Israel appeared to him as the only possibility to outrun his murderous past and his unbearable present.
Human traffickers brought him, together with other refugees, without passports or papers inside a container as blind passengers on a freight ship over the Nile river into Sudan.
The hygienic conditions were catastrophic, five people died. After his arrival in Sudan, his journey continued to Egypt – only this time it was by foot. The land was in a war-like condition, and the journey was perilous. One foggy night, under fire from the Egyptian border soldiers, he successfully crossed the border.
After a three month-long journey, he faced the last big and risky step of their journey: the border passing into Israel. There were 56 refugees who crossed the border together. The Egyptian army opened fire on them. The Africans – men, women, and children – ran for their lives. Eight of them were killed, on their way to a better life, by Egyptian bullets. Hiyoba, arrived on the Israeli side, and was put on a bus to Tel Aviv by soldiers. He got a residence permit. However, this permit was only temporary.
He wished to go to Europe. But how was this possible without a passport? His residence permit in Israel would expire in a few months. Hiyoba was in a panic and feared that the Israeli officials would send him back to Egypt, or worse, to Eritrea where he would surely face the death penalty as a deserter. He figured out by now that Israel isn’t the Holy Land for him. Hiyoba, 21 years old, a former child soldier who should be given a new start, however instead has this end in front of his eyes once more. But he doesn’t want to give up, he is fighter. But sometimes he asks himself if a “Holy Land” exists for him at all.