World Refugee Day

You may not know this, because it was a long time ago and its happenstances were thrust upon a minority people representing probably less than 1/2 of 1% of the population, at the time.

The days were the austere periods of war enveloping the efforts of the United States, and, indeed, those of the rest of the world, in the battle for the nations’ places upon the world stage. In each nation, there were those who contributed actively to their battles, and citizenry who still tried to go about some semblance of normality, attempting to live their daily lives as if there were no war on.

The wars’ effects were felt, though, in all strata of society, regardless of participation level. Resources were rationed, manufacturing facilities were retrofitted toward war industry production, and patriotic men signed up to pledge their skills and determination to aid their country in this war effort.

Women civilians were tasked in voluntary roles to assist in previously male-dominated employment, now that the men had left the workforce to join the fighting forces. Suddenly, the stenography skills of the secretary were utilized in the war rooms, and the homemaker found yet further work as airplane riveters and Red Cross nurses, tending to the men and non-combat duties which propel the effort forward, nevertheless. There was no glory, not much pay, no war medals for these roles.

Yet, without these individuals, the war would have been lost.

I’m not sure, today, whether we know what the mindset was among the fighters in this war. We could ask, but most don’t like to tell. It was only seven, eight decades back, and there are still a few citizens left from that time who we could approach…

Thankfully, now, some are beginning to open up. We learn that war is not really glory, but a messy battle where friends are killed, families are torn apart, lives are forever altered. Yet, I think in those times that the people realized that it was a necessary sacrifice to fight for the ideals of what the country represents, so that others cannot impose their tyrannies over us. As much as it would be nice to ignore battles occuring elsewhere, it’s important to step-in to preempt, or at least, to meet, the enemy when they come a-calling.

At first, the United States held back in joining the battles raging in Europe during World War II. It was most unfortunate for the Jews, who were targetted by Germany for extermination. The roads of escape were narrowed, and those that could flee tried to do so through as many modes they could find: smuggled through borders, rail-lines, passenger ships.

The United States, as well as various other countries, maintained quotas of the numbers of people they would admit from each nation into the country, and also had a total maximum amount which were pre-determined to be allowed to enter. These amounts could be waived, essentially, if desired — and often, countries would do so for humanitarian purposes, etc.

But, for the Jewish people, the rules were enforced; worse yet, they were often changed, and not in a manner biased toward their favor. Administrations, like the British one, entrusted to administer the Mandate for Palestine when the Turkish Ottoman Empire lost the war, and, therefore, their territories (which included “Palestine”, at that time), illegally ceded land from the Jews to the Arabs. This included trans-Jordan, some small areas of land along the eastern side of the Jordan river, as well as the rest of what is, today, now called Jordan.

This land was recognized as belonging to the Jews based on factual historicity, and not based on suffrance (meaning just based on the events of the Holocaust, and other such notions). Its rule was recognized as Jewish in the decree issued by the overseeing adminstrator of the territories by the English; again, the Turks had lost this war.

The 1917 Balfour Declaration recognizes these rights of the Jewish people over the land — including on both the eastern and western sides of the Jordan river. It also reminds of the humanitarian aspect of rulership in not prejudicing rights of other people present in the area.

The Jewish people are well aware of this — in fact, are rather instrumental in bringing judicial matters and notions into the world, from the tablets of the Ten Commandments, to the Torah and its 613 mitzvot, both positive and negative, as well as other ideas regarding humanitarian principles. Even the etymology of the English word pertaining to matters of law, such as “judge”, and “judicial” are derived from the land, tribe and religion of “Judah” and “Judaism” (I can hear the grinding of Israel-haters gnashing their teeth now).

Yet, despite what the government position recognized and upheld to be Jewish property, many of the foot soldiers in the English operation were anti-Semitic, and constantly undermined the facilitation of Jewish immigration to Israel (Palestine). There were still some Arab “fellaheen” living on the land of Israel/Palestine, peasants who would tend small plots for absentee Turkish “effendis”. The situation under this arrangement worked out worse and worse for the poor Arab farmer, who became basically an indentured serf beholden to their overlords via crushing taxation and tributary-like payments in this sortof sub-letting arrangement.

The effendis were so far away to even bother with the oversight of any plot of land in Israel/Palestine, and it became, under Turkish rule, such a wasteland of neglect, that many Arabs just abandoned the land altogether. That is the reason for so many reports of outside travellers visiting this supposed “Garden of Eden” and “land of milk and honey” and finding it to instead be a malarial, overgrown area devoid of many people and pretext toward any civilization. The words of Mark Twain, and many others, attest to its reality.

The Jews always lived there, since their settling in the land called Canaan, for many thousands of years, even in dwindling amounts. Its populations rose and fell. Those that had been driven away always thought of return, although it was a much more difficult endeavor in the days preceding freedom of movement, mechanical transport, vast fortunes, and even the ideology to consider travel a non-event, as we do today. There was disease without vaccination, piracy during sea voyage, robbery via land-passage (especially in Mid-East areas of the world).

But, come, we did — or at least tried to. Away from our oppressive abodes of exile and back to our lands. Some of us still have the “Galut” (“Exile”) mentality — more a matter of realizing that we have reached a point of being able to physically possess the means — the money, the ease of travel, etc. — that would allow us to pick ourselves up and transport our families’ lives back to the “Promised Land”, where we belong.

It isn’t so easy. We were still discriminated against in society, barred from beaches, universities, clubs, schools and other places where citizens dwell. A few Jewish people began to become successful, developing their own contributions outside of the society from which they had been barred. The film industry is a notable example, with Jewish people pioneering an entire industry.

Jewish people developed their own businesses and slowly worked their way toward achieving more commercial and personal success. Eventually, there were quite a number of established people of Jewish origin; but, that certainly didn’t encompass all. In time, it became almost like competitive sport — a “keeping up with the Joneses” phenomenon, where appearance was more important than reality, in the community. It is unfortunate that this development briefly occurred, but there are some still afflicted by the lingering mindset.

I recently thought that more Jewish people who could possibly make “Aliyah” by moving to Israel were stubbornly stuck in the comfort of the “fleshpots of Egypt”, alluding to the ease of life to which the Jews had attained in Egypt, under the reign of second-to-the-Pharoah, our own Israeli Joseph, prior to the successive Pharaonic dynasties which eventually grew to forget the contributions of Joseph toward saving their society, to the final disdain amongst the citizenry for the now-perceived successful “others” in their midst as non-native foreigners competing for jobs and resources.

I realized, after that initial thought, that I was wrong for thinking that Jews were all willfully ignoring the call to return to Israel. Somebody else came up with the same thought, and even wrote an article about it, declaring that Jewish people living in the Diaspora are actively boycotting Israel by not living there, in a surely worse-conceived notion than the actual Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) discrimination being carried out by the world against the Jews right now actually is. I realized that, while there might be some truth in it, for those who truly have the resources to do so, but won’t; there are still many of us who are actually quite poor and can’t. We don’t fit the stereotypical profile of being independently wealthy, as so many are apt to think. So, please — return your pointing finger back to its holster.

I was glad to volunteer the practical equivalent of a basic-training regimen, on my own dime (and, unfortunately, extended into my families’, due to unexpected costs) with the duties of a non-combat Jewish “soldier” (not technically; just a civilian volunteer) linked, by volunteer work, to a Jewish Army somewhere on Jewish land in Israel, so that my brethren could take a much-needed break and come to the relative safety of the U.S. instead of having to always save our collective heinies against constant murderous assault from middle-east Arab maniacs bent on our destruction. I agree — my almost nine-months’ does not a lifetime make — but, it is enough time to create life. Never mind all the pocket money collectively spent by the volunteers purchasing much needed things they were always short of supply in. If you think Israel receives top-drawer funds and supplies, you’d be surprised. Loan guarantees are still loans, which must be paid back. The stuff ain’t all free, like you think. Korean war-era castoffs, etc. don’t necessarily advance the Israeli Army to number one. Our determination, brain power, inventiveness and G-d, do.

Jews were fired upon and turned back from most of the lands their boats approached during flight from the Nazi horrors preceding, during, and following World War II. My Jewish families’ efforts as active military meant nothing in the lack of extending refugee asylum to the Jews leaving persecution in Europe during that era. The same attitude was served to the Jews as they reached Palestine; the English administrators did not facilitate entry into the land recognized as ours: we were turned away, imprisoned in barracks or sent to internment camps on the island of Cyprus; or turned away completely — contrary to their own British government’s Mandate. The remaining Arabs, or those recently taking up residence in the land, had caused enough chaos with constant killings and attacks to cow the English to submissive subserviance, kowtowing to their demands and limiting Jewish immigration, against the directive to do otherwise.

The Jews were betrayed — and it wouldn’t be our first time to know such treatment. Indeed, we know the precious price of freedom and how it feels to be persecuted for being born a Jew. We could never be more grateful to G-d for being born, as such. We are cognizant of everything that entails what it means to know nationhood, peoplehood and freedom. We champion it, everyday. For those who would accuse us otherwise, you have yet much to learn.

On World Refugee Day, today, you may view, on-demand, the ceremony of induction and the Oath of Allegiance of refugees and asylum-seekers and new citizens to the United States via the streaming site of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum at 2:00 E.D.T. (sorry my article surpassed that time frame; guess I had alot to say). I feel honored that Emma Lazarus received the privilege to pen the words upon the sentry statue of welcome to the harbors of the United States at Ellis Island, where many Jewish people came to shore and reached safety.

USHMM: https://www.ushmm.org/watch

 

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