According to the Population and Immigration Authority, some 65,000 asylum-seekers are living in Israel. "I equipped myself with an Israeli flag I found at home and went with Darfuri and Israeli friends to watch the air show at the beach," Baher Adham, 31, told Ynet.
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Adham, who infiltrated into Israel from Darfur five and a half years ago, added "as people who are here, it is important for us to participate in the happiness. We aren't really Israelis, but we live here."
Adham continued "we have criticism on the governmental activities against us, laws that attempt to harm the refugees and incitement by some of the politicians which sometimes leads to sights of hatred on the south Tel Aviv streets, but at the end of the day, we want to share in the happiness of the country we escaped to and in which we receive protection."
Adham, who holds a permit granting "collective protection" for asylum-seekers from Eritrea, Darfur and Sudan, said he encountered hostility at the beach. "At the beach we also met Israelis who didn't like seeing us celebrating with their flag. They shouted that we are infiltrators and that this is not our holiday."
He added that on Monday he marked Remembrance Day for Israel's Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism and recently even visited Yad Vashem. According to him, "We are familiar with the Jewish and Israeli history which reminds us of our history.
"We too were the victims of persecution and genocide and therefore, we appreciate the fact that you established a country here. Although we are not Israeli I live here as a refugee despite the difficulties that the country places on us, I was very proud to wave the Israeli flag."
Mutasim Ali, Adham's 26-year-old friend, said "I am not a citizen of this country, but I have many Israeli friends and I have been here for the past years.
"Therefore, I am a part of the holiday and I was proud to wave the Israeli flag. Jewish refugees from the Holocaust built a strong country here. We identify with the Israeli history and are envious of what you built here but we don't want to stay; we are dreaming of returning to Darfur to build a country of our own."
Ali also said that he infiltrated into Israel some four years ago through the southern border, because "our history is similar. We too are refugees of genocide. We receive a certain kind of protection here, but I am called a 'labor immigrant', 'infiltrator' or 'criminal,' when the Israelis don't understand that we are refugees. The police harass me at 2 am, sometimes there is racism and hatred and I expect that the country and the citizens here respect my rights as a human being."