There were tears of joy, elation, and dancing in the streets of Tel Aviv yesterday afternoon and last night. Many of the estimated 3000 Southern Sudanese refugees who live in Tel Aviv were expressing their indescribable joy at the creation of the new country of Southern Sudan. The images that we saw flashing across Israeli TV were both exhilarating and heartwarming.
The story of the creation of Southern Sudan is an extremely complicated one and too long to tell here this morning. Suffice it to say that one significant aspect of the struggle has been the efforts of the largely Christian south to stop the onslaught of the mostly Muslim north. These are efforts that Israel (as well as other countries) has been involved in for decades.
As the slaughter of Christians in the south began to increase in the 1980s (it is estimated that invading Muslims from northern Sudan butchered up to 1,500,000 Christians in the south) so did the assistance provided by Israel to those Sudanese groups resisting the Muslim onslaught.
In particular, Israel provided material support to the late SPLM (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement) leader Dr. John Garang and to his successor, the new Southern Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit. Even though the degree of Israel’s assistance to the SPLM is unknown, the Arab world has ridiculously (but not surprisingly) focused on Israel as the main cause of discord between north and south:
But the basic story here is the thwarting (at least until the next invasion) of Muslim extremism. Israelis and Sudanese Christians working hand in hand to create a space where Christians can live in peace. It is no surprise that President Kiir welcomed the impending recognition of Israel yesterday and announced that an Israeli embassy would be opening soon in the new capital of Juba.