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Sunday, February 23, 2020 - 28 Shevat 5780
 
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The Deluge
Europe is under a strange kind of attack. Millions of people are swarming its shores. They cross over in barely seaworthy vessels unfit to transport people. They cross deserts on foot; they slip past borders. People with nowhere to go, with backpacks and tattered suitcases and children in their arms, refugees from Africa and Asia. Across the European continent, temporary shelters are popping up—tents, shipping containers or abandoned properties.

According to UN statistics, more than 300 thousand people risked their lives this year in an attempt to escape the war-torn Middle East or impoverished Africa. In 2014 there were 219 thousand refugees. The steep rise in numbers indicates that the real flood is yet to come. Most of the refugees in 2015 are from Syria, fleeing a bloody civil war that has dragged out for years and cost thousands of lives. Afghanistan and Eritrea are next on the list, due to desperate poverty and human rights abuses. A steady flow also comes from Nigeria and Kosovo, seeking a better life in affluent Western Europe.

Tent camps have become the temporary solution, and they have been set up even in major metropolitan areas—in city squares and train stations. Nobody is happy with this solution, which will soon be untenable when the cold winter sets in. In Berlin alone, a shipping container village has been set up on the outskirts of the city, housing more than 2,000 people, sharing bathrooms and kitchens with deplorable hygiene conditions.

As Jewish people we have perhaps a unique perspective on the migrant crisis. We have had our share of wandering and turmoil in our past, and the Torah commands us to be kind to the stranger, because we know what it’s like to live in a land not ours. At the same time we worry about destabilization and terrorism, and wonder if this is payback time for the European continent for mercilessly driving out its Jewish population 75 years ago.

One thing is clear—Europe has undergone a drastic change, from cruelty and xenophobia towards strangers to welcoming them home. This change, says the Lubavitcher Rebbe, is a foretaste of the Redemption, when nations will “no longer lift a sword against one another and will no longer study war.” This degree of international humanitarianism and cooperation was inconceivable just a generation or two ago when the world was embroiled in the bloodiest conflict it has ever known. In a shockingly rapid reversal, wealthy nations no longer exploit their more impoverished neighbors but offer a helping hand. This revolution can point to only one thing—the fulfillment of the long awaited prophecy of Redemption.
 

 


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