“I don’t have a visa,” Emanuel Yemani told me.
He spoke in Hebrew on the phone. After his third prison term for political offenses, Yemani had fled from Eritrea, traveling north through Sudan and Egypt. He crossed the Sinai Peninsula — the same ancient route used by Hebrew slaves delivered from Egypt — and entered Israel ten years ago.
It has been enough time for him to learn the language — but not enough to gain a firm legal status. Like nearly 40,000 other refugees from Eritrea and Sudan in Israel, Yemani has lived on a short-term visa that he must renew every couple of months at the Interior Ministry. The last time he did so, he brought a document that had been requested. The ministry official refused to take it, and Yemani recounted the exchange:
“No need,” said the official. “Soon we’ll deport all of you, and you’ll sit under a tree, open your mouth and wait for a banana to fall, like a monkey.”