Global Journey of Exile —The Separation Between Human and Homeland
“Next year in Jerusalem.” A phrase Jews have been saying for the past 2,000 years since exiled from Egypt. Even after the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, those Jews living outside of Israel still say this phrase in hopes of one day returning to their homeland. Over a span of 2,000 years, the Jews have been exiled over one-hundred times. Despite exile and persecution, the hope of one day returning to Jerusalem kindled the spirit and kept the Jewish faith alive.
Last January I was fortunate enough to visit Dharamsala, India. My program, a group of about 50 American-Jewish teens, had the honor of meeting with Lobsang Sangay, the Tibetan Prime Minister in Exile. Lobsang was expressing the hardship of living as a refugee outside of his homeland of Tibet. His entire family was born in Tibet and escaped in 1950 to Dharamsala when China viciously invaded. Lobsang has a menorah, a Jewish symbol, on his desk, and exclaimed to us, “The Jewish people were exiled from their homeland for 2,000 years, we look to them for guidance.”
Edward Said, the distinguished author of the book “Reflections on Exile” explains that exile is, “the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between self and its true home.” Said exclaims, “our age—with its modern warfare, imperialism, and the quasi-theological ambitions of totalitarian rulers is indeed the age of the refugee, the displaced person, and mass immigration.” My portfolio journeys around the globe to highlight the aching hearts of those who have been pushed from their homes or who are oppressed in their homelands. Their echoing voices plea, “Next year in my homeland.”
Bill McKibben || The New Yorker || September 6th, 2016
“History offers us no chances to completely erase our mistakes. Occasionally, though, we do get a chance to show we learned something.”
What would you do if foreigners invaded your land, killed your people, and called your land their own? This is the story of thousands of Native Americans in exile from their homeland, a land many of us call our homeland, the United State of America.
After endless years of conflict and bloody massacre, Native Americans from various tribes and regions were pushed from their land and forced to live on reservations throughout the country. One of the most well known native tribes, the Sioux, formed the Great Sioux Reservation in North Dakota in the 1860’s. After years and years of the government reforming and shrinking the size of the reservation, in 1958 the US government seized control of the land without consent of the Sioux tribe. In December of 2016, the US Army Corps of Engineers approved an oil pipeline crossing through Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Not only would the pipeline dig up sacred burial ground to the Native Americans, it would also contaminate water sources. The company constructing the pipeline had no respect for the natives and purchased a security company to ensure that the protestors didn’t get in the way of the production of the pipeline. The US government, the same conquerers that pushed these people from their land over a hundred years ago, is allowing the little piece of land these people have left to be defiled and contaminated.
Evan Osnos || The New Yorker || March 13th, 2015
High up in the snow-tipped Himalayan mountains of India sits a quaint village known as Dharamsala. Not only is Dharmsala known for it’s remarkable beauty, but its for its interesting, non-native population. The Indian city of Dharmsala is predominantly composed of Tibetans, an ethnical group from the neighboring country of Tibet. The spiritual leader of the Tibetan people is the Dalai Lama, an 81 year old monk who has dedicated his life to his people and religion.
Over the past 700 years there have been fourteen Dalai Lama’s reincarnated who obtain the spiritual and political power of the Tibetan people. The article states, “Traditionally, after he dies, a search party of senior monks would set out to locate his new incarnation, who is most often a boy toddler, who goes on to be trained as a monk and a leader. But the Dalai Lama has said that times have changed, and the old ways might not make sense; he has suggested that he could be reincarnated as a woman, or reincarnated while he’s still alive, a gradual migration that might give him more control over the process.” “The chairman of the Standing Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Regional People’s Congress, explained to reporters that the power to determine the future location and durability of the Dalai Lama’s spirit properly resides with the Communist Party in Beijing.” “The Beijing government avidly asserts its control over matters of reincarnation as a way of securing the loyalty and political complexion of influential Tibetan figures.”
What’s not taught in our traditional-American education is that in 1950 China invaded Tibet and massacred its people. To this day, the Chinese still operate torture prisons in Tibet. Those lucky enough to escape dangerously-journeyed to Dharamsala where they can freely practice their religion. After 60 years of exile from their land, the peaceful Tibetans have never taken to arms. Instead, they have created two major tactics in hopes of gaining a stronger voice and receiving their land back. In 2011 the Dalai Lama forfeited his political power over the people and created a Tibetan Government in Exile. Thus the political control of the country was handed over to Lobsang Sangay, the current Prime Minister. In addition, they have stated that the Dalai Lama may not be reincarnated again, outraging the controlling Chinese.
National Geographic || June 2013
“Aboriginals had the continent to themselves for 50,000 years. Today they make up less than 3 percent of the population, and their traditional lifestyle is disappearing.”
In 1770 British explores landed on the continent of Australia. They were completely blinded by and disregarded the local population that had inhabited this land for the past 48,800 years. The next two hundred years would be absolute devastation and massacre for the local Aborigines, one of the world oldest enduring inhabitants of a land.
Today, Aborigines living in cities live in poverty and are at major risk of alcoholism. Those who live in the bush, choose to live a pure, traditional life. This article focuses less on the conquering and abuse of the land of Australia, and more on the beautiful traditions and lifestyles of the local inhabitants of the quaint village of Matamata. The village has twenty-five inhabitants, one car, and is located four hours from the nearest grocery store. Aborigines choose this lifestyle to be one with their land and to return to their roots and traditions. They are one with the land and respect mother nature. The hunter gather lifestyle is deeply rooted into their culture and religion. A local Aborigines man living in the Outback says, “Even when I have white hair, I will still be a hunter.”
The Aborigines possess the worlds longest enduring religion as wells as continuing art form. An elder from the village of Matamata creates handmade works of art that are sold all over the world. In Charlottesville, Virginia, there is a museum dedicated to the exhibition and study of Australian Aboriginal Art. This is the only museum in the United States that displays the vibrant-traditional art, as well as advocates for the diminishing ethnical group.
“Blood and Sand” — The Israeli Narrative
David Remnick || The New Yorker || May 5th, 2008
In the article, “Blood and Sand,” David Remnick reflects on the history of the Jewish people. “For thirteen centuries, between 1200 B.C. and the second century A.D., the Jews lived in, and often ruled, the land of Israel.” Despite the land being conquered by various empires and the massacre and expulsion of Jews, there has always been Jews practicing their religion in the land of Israel. The land had always been in their hearts as the land reserved for them by G-d.
By the nineteenth century, Palestine had been ruled by various different empires. From 1920 to 1948 the British ruled the land of Palestine. After 2,000 years in exile, the rise of anti-semitism and the genocide of the Holocaust, the British agreed it was time for the Jews to have a land of their own and helped them regain control of the land of Israel.
As one early Zionist, Ze’ev Dubnow, wrote to his brother Simon, “The ultimate goal . . . is, in time, to take over the Land of Israel and to restore to the Jews the political independence they have been deprived of for these two thousand years. . . . The Jews will yet arise and, arms in hand (if need be), declare that they are the masters of their ancient homeland.”
Today Israel is the only democracy in the chaos of the Middle East where despite gender, race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, all people live equally.
“Blood and Sand” — The Palestinian Narrative
David Remnick || The New Yorker || May 5th, 2008
“Arabs who left Palestine as refugees in the years between 1947 and 1950 did so voluntarily or at the urging of their leaders…Arab leaders wanted the civilian population to leave Palestine as a political issue and a military weapon.” “ Arabs fled out of fear, having heard rumors of attacks and even massacres; in six, the villagers left at the instruction of Palestinian local leaders. The refugees, who probably expected to return to their homes in a matter of weeks or months, went to Gaza and the West Bank, and also to surrounding Arab countries — Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Syria — where, to this day, they have never been fully absorbed.”
Last week I read the same article and viewed it from the Jewish perspective, but this week I went back and re-read this article with the perspective of the Palestinians. What the Israelis refer to as the 1947 War of Independence, the Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, meaning catastrophe. When the 1947 War occurred, 60% of Arabs living in the land fled because the Arab leaders encouraged them to as a war tactic. 700,000 Palestinians fled their villages. According to UNRWA, Palestinian refugees are identified as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” In addition, this ruling includes the descendants of refugees, so today there is an estimated 6.5 million Palestinian refugees. Palestinian refugees live all throughout the world, and in most cases are fully assimilated into society. In countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Syria, they still have not been fully absorbed by society.
The road to peace was discussed in the Two State Solution of 1947, Madrid Conference of 1991, Oslo Accords of 1993, and Camp David Summit of 2000. All of these offers were rejected by the Palestinian Authority, who returned to inflicting terror on Israelis. Civilians living in Gaza and the West Bank often live in horrible living conditions under these terrorists who use international humanitarian aid towards their terror efforts.
Nicholas Schmidle || The New Yorker || October 26th, 2016
“In 2012, the Syrian civil war reached the suburbs of Damascus. Army tanks rolled over anti-government protesters in Ghouta; artillery shells fell on Darayya. One morning that May, a car bomb exploded in the town of Jdeidet Artouz, southwest of the capital. The blast jolted Ghaith, a twenty-two-year-old law student, out of bed. He lived in a two-bedroom apartment with his mother; his father had died when he was an infant, and his siblings — four sisters and a brother, all older — had left the house after getting married. Ghaith stepped to the window and pulled back the curtain. Across the street, a sedan was spewing flames. Body parts littered the road.”
Ghaiths brother had escaped to Europe and had sent Ghaiths a fake passport to join him in Europe. Ghaith, a soon to be law graduate student, left his mother and wife to escape the raging civil war in Syria. He was smuggled to Beirut where he would fly to Europe, but in the airport he got arrested for fake identification. Two years later he finally returned to Syria and was planning his next escape route. He was able to fly to Istanbul and through the use of a Facebook page called “The Asylum and Immigration Without Smugglers,” he was able to navigate his way around the city and learn tricks of being undetected. Ghaith made several attempts to leave Turkey and reach northern European countries where there were more opportunities for work and a better life. After several failed attempts and near death, he finally was successfully smuggled on a boat from Turkey to Italy. This article is heart wrenching and had me in tears. After leaving his home in Syria, Ghaith crossed ten borders into Sweden, where he lives a Swedish citizen. He still hopes to save his wife from the hell of the Syrian civil war. Ghaith said, “In Syria, there’s a hundred-per-cent chance that you’re going to die. If the chance of making it to Europe is even one per cent, then that means there is a one-per-cent chance of your leading an actual life.”
See a harrowing landing in this striking short film that captures the poignant story of Syrian people seeking safety…video.nationalgeographic.com
Just last year I stood a mere fifty-feet from the border of Syria. I have heard stories of Israeli soldiers hearing bombs go off, seeing a family try to run across the border, the soldier running into Syria, taking them under arms like wings, and safely bringing them to Israel. I have seen the mass refugee camps in Greece and Germany. Our world aches with pain and the refugee crisis has no cure in sight. What if this was your reality?
George Packer || The New Yorker || August 6th, 2014
While most of the worlds attention is fixated on Syrian refugees, and rightfully so, the struggle of Iraqis is being over looked. Sinjar, Iraq is home to thousands of the ancient religious-minority Yazidi Christians. “isis regards Yazidis as devil worshippers, and its fighters have been executing Yazidi men who won’t convert to Islam on the spot, taking away the women as jihadi brides.” “isis is not Al Qaeda. It operates like an army, taking territory, creating a state. The aim of the Sinjar operation seems to be control of the Mosul Dam, the largest dam in Iraq, which provides electricity to Mosul, Baghdad, and much of the country. According to one expert, if isis takes the dam, which is located on the Tigris River, it would have the means to put Mosul under thirty meters of water, and Baghdad under five.” As ISIS invaded the city of Sinjar, thousands of Yazidis fled to their near by mountains for safety. Others Sinjari’s, the more fortunate, loaded their cars and caravanned through the desert to Kurdistan in hopes of refuge.
This story traces the exile of Karim, a native born Iraqi, on his journey to safety in Kurdistan. Karim has helped American forces on gaining inside information and working with medical charities in the past, but his request for asylum was not answered. As ISIS was invading his city of Sinjar, Karim and twenty of his extended family members quickly escaped in their cars. “They’d had no time to pack, and for the drive through the heat of the desert they took nothing but water, bread, canned milk for Karim’s two-year-old son, and their AK-47s.”
Hillel Zand || Times of Israel || November 19th, 2016
“The word “refugee” does not conjure images of doctors and engineers, polyglots or the middle to upper-middle class — yet these were the types of people I met on a daily basis.”
Hillel Zand, a sophomore at the George Washington University, spent seven weeks in Berlin volunteering for IsraAID, an Israeli NGO specializing in global humanitarian aid. His work in Berlin was focused on the Middle Eastern refugee criss. Hillel says, “As an undergraduate college student with no experience in social work, I viewed my role there as being a pair of eyes and ears to take in the stories of the refugees, engaging them on a human level and reaching outside my comfort zone whenever possible.”
On his first day, Hillel was asked by an 18 year old man from Afghanistan, “Is university in America really like ‘American Pie?’” Hillel spent his days playing soccer and teaching English and technical skills. He encountered people from all walks of life — men, women, children, all who lost their homes due to war.
Hillel is an American-Jew living in Jerusalem. His peers were Muslims from Arab countries. It’s fair to say their views on religion and politics couldn’t be more opposite. When conversing and there was a difference of opinion, like calling Israel Palestine, Hillel would ask himself, “What’s more important right now? Helping this person and hearing their story, or starting a political debate?” It goes to show that people are raised with certain ideals and that’s not a good or bad thing, it’s just who we are.
This piece beautifully exemplifies that despite religion, race, gender or nationality, when people open their ears and hearts, peace and coexistence can flourish. Hillel, the American-Israeli says in Arabic to his friend Omer, an Afghani refugee, “Kulna fee al-hawa sawa.” We’re all in the same boat.
From Dharmsala to North Dakota, Damascus to Matamata, Sinjar to Jerusalem, people around the globe plea in unison, “Next year in my homeland.” The reasons for exile are abundant, but religious affiliation, political identification and colonization of land are consistent causes of persecution and expulsion. Aggressive dominating religious groups persecuted the Yazidis, Syrians and Jews. The Sioux and Aborigines were oppressed from Western colonization, while the Palestinians were displaced during the political policies of war. The Tibetans are unique, as their exile was due to a combination of religious, colonization and political factors.
The plight of these displaced and oppressed people from across the globe emphasize our oneness as well as our global diversity. With open arms, ears, and minds a tolerant and accepting world can be bridged between all people and nations — a world in which we can all live without fear.