Award-winning writer and lecturer Barbara Sofer grew up
in a small town in Connecticut, and moved to Israel in 1971. She is a
graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the Hebrew University in
Jerusalem. Her articles -taking on a wide range of subjects from ethnic
cooking to terrorism--have appeared in The New
York Times, The Boston Globe, Parents, Readers' Digest, Woman's Day,
Hadassah Magazine and Inside Magazine
among many others. She writes a bi-weekly column for the Friday Jerusalem
Barbara has written five books and contributed to
EXCERPT FROM CURRENT ARTICLE
The Human Spirit: A refugee names Louis
By Barbara Sofer
Louis says he feared nothing more than spending endless years as a boy soldier in the Eritrean army/ national service, where conscription can go on to age 50. Desperate, he embarked on a treacherous journey, not sure where he’d end up.
While the moral debate rages over the limits of the responsibility of strong, free countries like ours to take in migrants, I am having lunch with one such refugee. Louis is the name he’s using. We can’t use his real name for fear of retribution to his family.
Louis and I are in the cafeteria of Hadassah- Neurim, a Youth Aliya village near Netanya. School has just started, and around us, teens fill their plates with rice and chicken, salads and hot peppers. Like Louis, they are wearing jeans and T-shirts with the school logo.
Each student gets five shirts in a choice of colors. Louis is wearing white and blue. He’s tall and lanky, with a semi-mohawk haircut and sparkling, dark eyes. He sprints to the communal kitchen to get us additional water and glasses.
Leaving home is dangerous, but it’s not rare in Eritrea, where an estimated 5,000 citizens stealthily leave their country every month. If you’re caught, you might be shot or tortured. Such is life in the State of Eritrea, a country of 6.5 million – half Christian, half Muslim – in the Horn of Africa, bordered by Sudan to the west and Ethiopia in the south, and with a long coastline along the Red Sea, the Greek for which is the source of the country’s name.
The United Nations forged a federation between Ethiopia and Eritrea in December 1950. A 30-year war of liberation resulted.
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