Muswell Hill rabbi hears refugee camp horror tales in Greece
Rabbi David Mason, 42, from Muswell Hill Synagogue, joined the Chief Rabbi in a trip to Eidomenei on the Greek Macedonian border, meeting refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea.
He wanted to see for himself how the money raised for World Jewish Relief, which has raised more than £700,000 to support refugees in Greece, is being spent.
As the land border between Turkey and Greece is shut, refugees who come from Turkey need to first make a sea journey to one of the Greek islands closer to the Turkish shores.
On his three-day trip, Rabbi Mason met refugees who had witnessed people falling into the sea and drowning.
The refugees had then travelled on buses to the northern point of Greece, at Eidomeni, where they planned to make their way into mainland Europe.
“You could see the pain etched in their faces,” Rabbi Mason said. “It was amazing to see the emotional strength of some of these people.”
Rabbi Mason met a young Afghani who had heard that ISIS was coming to conscript, and hid underground for two days before escaping towards the Iran border.
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There was a man with his elderly mother who had fled from Syria when his brother and father was killed by ISIS. Rabbi Mason met an Eritrean man who told him that he had been conscripted for 21 years into the army and wanted to escape that reality for freedom.
Rabbi Mason believes that there is opportunity for faith leaders from all communities, including Muslim, Christian and Jewish, to stand up for humanitarian crisis.
“The religious world needs to stand together with the secular world to help with the crisis,” he said.
“We need to stand up for joint values.”
The rabbi believes that Europe should be doing more to help handle the refugee crisis, and to start re-settling refugees across member countries.
He is still committed to European asylum, even following the shocking terror atrocities which took place across Paris last week.
News followed that one of the bombers held a Syrian refugee passport.
“We can’t be naive, we have to be careful,” he said. “But we can’t allow it to stir up feelings against the vast number of refugees who are fleeing conflict.”
To donate to World Jewish Relief Syrian crisis appeal: worldjewishrelief.org/projects/syria-crisis-emergency-appeal/