Tel Aviv as a sanctuary city
While federal politicians and pundits debate taking in refugees, what is the mayor of a city to do? Most refugees seek shelter in large cities where it is easier to find work. They come with children who need food, medicine and schooling. What are cities to do with these children until governments decide their fate?
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who recently proposed that the city should be a sanctuary city, is doing the right thing.
Although we may think of sanctuary cities in the United States, the city of Tel Aviv has been a model of the sanctuary city for the past 10 years. Coderre visited Tel Aviv last year so perhaps he has learned from Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.
Tel Aviv is the only municipality in Israel that has a department dedicated to refugees. From the first day that the refugees arrive, they are welcomed, children are placed in kindergartens and schools. Most babies are assigned a spot in a special daycare (there is not enough room for everyone and it needs funding). Huldai has given Doctors Without Borders an office near the daycare to serve the community with free medical services.
Volunteers tutor the children in schools such as Bialik Rogozin, the subject of an Oscar-winning movie.
Bialik Rogozin school was recently renovated with funding from the Tel Aviv Foundation, where there is now a gym, a library and an IT room with free access to computers. As a result, 90 per cent of refugee children in Tel Aviv pass their Grade 12 matriculation exams.
Half of the funding for these projects comes from the Tel Aviv Foundation, which raises money for specific projects where the City of Tel Aviv will match donated funds.
Let’s hope Coderre has taken a lesson from Tel Aviv on how to welcome refugees.
Erin Battat, Chair, Canadian Committee for the Tel Aviv Foundation Montreal