By Martin Roth
Eritrea, bordering Ethiopia in North Africa, became Christian in the fourth century. Back then it was quite a major empire, the KIngdom of Aksum.
Today Christians in the country face extreme persecution according to Open Doors, which places Eritrea 10th on its depressing World Watch List of the 50 countries where Christians suffer most for their faith.
Many Christians (and others) have been attempting to flee, and, amazingly, tens of thousands have made it on foot to Israel.
So from Israel comes a lovely story of two young Eritrean Christians who have found a place on a kibbutz.
“I had never heard of a place called Israel,” says [John] Fshaye, now almost 20, and a Christian who is thoroughly at home among the residents of Kibbutz Mishol in Upper Nazareth.
When he fled Senafe he had no plan other than not to get caught by the army. He managed to make contact with a group of 28 other young Eritreans who were also on the run from the military. They crossed the border to Ethiopia, and then walked on to Sudan, which involved at one point going three days without food or water.
Several members of the group died during this stretch. Having reached Egypt they carried on across the Sinai desert, and on a dark night more than three months after leaving Eritrea, they sneaked across the border into Israel.
Read the whole story to learn how John and a friend, Dawit Ogbai, have been unofficially adopted by a kibbutz family from Britain, who cite, as one of their reasons, “episodes from Jewish history — such as Jews’ reliance on righteous gentiles to take them in during the Holocaust.”
And the story ends:
Fshaye and Ogbai join in with Shabbat celebrations and festivals — and sometimes find that they have deep personal meaning. Fshaye says that Pesach Seders, which recount the ancient Israelite exodus from Egypt to Israel — the very journey that he made — have been especially emotional. “I feel like it’s my story,” he says.