Israel’s Taglit-Birthright program celebrates its 500,000th participant
  • Founded at the turn of the millennium by Michael Steinhardt and Charles Bronfman, Taglit-Birthright provides free 10-day identity-building trips to Israel for Jewish youth around the world.
  • The young American woman who presented the co-founders with celebratory reminders of the beginnings of the program shares her story of reconnecting with an identity lost to her when her parents passed in her childhood.
  • Since 2000, 500,000 Jews aged 18-26 from more than 66 countries have participated.

“Molly embodies what Taglit, literally translated as ‘discovery,’ is all about, as she travels to define herself as a member of the Jewish community for the rest of her life.”

More on this story at The Times of Israel.

(Image Credit: via The Times of Israel)

Syrian refugees’ precarious living conditions in Lebanon threaten the community’s security
  • A recent fire that destroyed homes, shops, and community facilities in a Syrian refugee camp outside of al-Marj highlights the insecurity refugees face.
  • Because there are no formal refugee camps in Lebanon, Syrians are required to pay rent for accommodations, including those in the poorly constructed camps.
  • In addition, refugees face an increasingly unfriendly immigration system that requires declaration of intention at the border and forbids employment while levying fees and restricting access to social services.

“I used to work here as a baker, but now everything is gone – our shop, our salary, our papers. … We left Syria for this?”

More on this story at Deutsche Welle.

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African immigrants in China face strict immigration restrictions and an ambivalent public
  • One report puts the number of Africans with residence permits in Guangzhou at 30,000, with an additional undocumented 300,000.
  • The detention of some in the community for overstaying or failing to obtain their visas contributes to a public perception of criminality in the black Chinese population.
  • As China has begun aggressive efforts at building Sino-African relations and investment in the African continent, overt online racism and xenophobia create setbacks in friendly bilateral exchange, though the attitudes are not universal.

“People tend to be much braver online where there’s no fear of identification or retribution. Most people that spout racism online are generally people who’ve had no contact with black people or have been slighted by one and then hate all of them.”

More on this story at Global Voices.

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Transgender Egyptians face a difficult life in a society with few rights for its LGBT members
  • While homosexuality is universally condemned in Egypt, the transgender community has seen a glimmer of recognition through the government’s uneven acceptance of gender reassignment surgery for those diagnosed with “gender identity disorder” and approved by imams.
  • Even with that possibility, transgender individuals are subject to arrest, police and community violence, and employment exclusion, driving many into sex work to make a living.
  • Since the military coup in 2013, the trans community has faced deteriorating security as the government has enforced conservative, gender-rigid Islamic values in the citizenry.

“When I was five I knew I was different. … By 15, I was depressed. I thought I was a deviant according to Islam, that I was someone unacceptable to society.”

More on this story at GlobalPost.

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Italy PM calls for EU asylum rule revision as his country struggles with migrant influx
  • PM Matteo Renzi has called for a change in the Dublin II regulation, which stipulates that refugees must apply for asylum in the country of entry, as neighboring states France and Austria tighten their border controls.
  • With Southern European states like Italy and Greece bearing the brunt of the historic trans-Mediterranean migration taking place, Renzi argues the regulation is standing in the way of other countries bearing their fair share of incoming refugees.
  • Renzi criticized the EU’s proposed refugee distribution plan that will relocate 24,000 from Italy and 16,000 from Greece to other countries in the European bloc.

“Migration is a serious issue and – let’s be frank – the answers that Europe is giving are insufficient. Relocating only 24,000 people is almost a provocation.”

More on this story at Deutsche Welle.

(Image Credit: via Deutsche Welle)