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Kebedom Mengistu's little newspaper gives hope to Africans who've fled to Israel

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Most Eritreans who have fled to Israel, like Mengistu, made the arduous journey from the East African country through neighboring African states such as Ethiopia, Sudan, or even Libya before crossing Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and sneaking over its border with Israel in search of a better life in the Jewish state.

"I want to provide my people with a place where they can tell their stories about the hardships of this journey and the challenges of their new lives here," explains the former accountant, who has left behind a wife and two children in Eritrea.

The eight-page paper, which he prepares as a PDF so that his Israeli printer does not have to deal with the Tigrinyan script, aims to highlight some of the social problems encountered by his community.

While for the past five years the arrival in Israel of thousands of African migrants – not only from Eritrea but also Ethiopia, Sudan, and numerous other countries – has been kept somewhat under the public radar, a recent spate of violent robberies and rapes has roused fear and anger among native Israelis, many of whom are calling for the immigrants to be deported en masse back to their countries of origin.

Those working to help the migrant community, however, decry such sweeping actions, arguing that Israel, a country essentially built by Jewish refugees from Europe, has a responsibility to help other refugees in need. They blame the lack of a clear government policy to help refugees and asylum seekers for many of the social problems the country faces.

Sigal Rozen, public policy coordinator of the Hotline for Migrant Workers, which provides Eritreans and other non-Israeli residents with skills and information to function in Israel, says that Mengistu's newspaper is just what the Eritrean community needs at this stage.

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