Tel Aviv as a sanc­tu­ary city

The Canadian Jewish News (Toronto) - - Letters To The Editor -

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

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