About 300 residents of Israel gathered in Tel Aviv to support a political election 1,200 miles away.
The natives of southern Sudan, who have found refuge — both legal and illegal — from their war-ravaged African nation in recent years in Israel, sang and danced in Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park to celebrate the start of a week-long independence referendum in their homeland. If the referendum passes, the largely Christian part of Africa’s largest country will secede from mostly Muslim northern Sudan.
Which will probably be good news for Israel.
Sudan is one of Israel’s most vocal enemies in Africa; an independent south Sudan, which is rich in natural resources, would, according to press reports, probably establish diplomatic and economic relations with the Jewish state.
“Separation yes, unity no” was the demonstration’s rallying cry. The participants waved the black, red and green flag of what may be the world’s newest country.
This week’s election was part of a 2005 peace deal that ended a two-decade long civil war in Sudan that featured genocide in the Darfur region and the enslavement of Christian Sudanese. Endangered Sudanese were among the 30,000 Africans who entered Israel illegally in the past five years, crossing the border from Egypt.
Most say they would probably return to a free southern Sudan; if they went back to present-day Sudan, their lives would be threatened if it became known they had lived in Israel.
In the meantime, Israel is trying to reduce the number of Sudanese refugees living there; housing them has become a burden, the government states. Last month Israel deported 150 Sudanese. They departed willingly, and will go back to Sudan via a third country, BBC reported.