The story of Moran Mekamel begins like any other. She was a typical university student in Israel’s Ben Gurion University, located in the south of Israel.
But when Moran noticed the influx of African refugees entering Israel to escape genocide and brutal dictatorships, she decided to take action. From that moment, about eight years ago, Moran’s life changed.
In 2009, Moran and a few other students founded what is now known as the “Negev Refugee Center.” The volunteers worked tirelessly to provide the physical, mental, and emotional support the African asylum-seekers were not receiving.
Much to the surprise and dismay of the organization’s dedicated members, their work is still needed and will be needed until the Israeli government offers a feasible solution for this distressed population.
Beyond pressuring the Israeli government to grant refugee rights, the Negev Refugee Center organizes events, meetings, and projects that help asylum-seekers to feel a sense of normalcy and to assimilate better with other Israelis. One such activity was “Free Your Mind,” where 100 refugees from Holot Detention Center were able to study in Ben Gurion University.
“For eight weeks, they sat in student chairs and felt like they had normal lives. They studied philosophy, disaster management, psychology, and had different discourses,” Moran said. “For a few weeks, they had the same reality I do.”
Moran chooses to volunteer every morning anew, despite all the hardships and frustrations.
“After knowing these people, who are really inspiring, I see that if they don’t give up, and if they have hope and faith and they wake up every single day and try to create a change, I don’t have the privilege to give up hope. I don’t.”
Cover Image: Dani Machlis
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