"The Israelis aren’t racist. They just don’t like black people"
Initially, when I heard people talking about the government’s decision to deport us, I thought it was a just a rumour. But when I lost my job – undoubtedly because of people’s increasing hostility towards Ivorians – I realised that life was going to get much more difficult for us in Israel. I told my wife that I wanted to leave before the ultimatum because I didn’t want to suffer the shame of being arrested and kicked out.I came to Tel Aviv alone five years ago because I wanted to earn enough money to support my family. After two years I was hired as a handyman by a real estate company, and my wife and children came to join me [editor’s note: until May, when Israel’s Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai threatened to fine local authorities who hired illegal immigrants, the authorities had long turned a blind eye to clandestine employment]. For three years we had a much better life than we would have had in Abidjan. We didn’t have many Israeli friends, just a few colleagues and a neighbour. But my job was going well and my wife often got jobs cleaning houses."My son told me that he was getting dirty looks"During the last few months, my son told me that he was getting more and more dirty looks in the street and at school. I was never physically assaulted but I did feel that people in the street and at work were looking at me more aggressively [Editor’s note: there have been several public demonstrations against immigrants recently and a number of politicians have made comments that some organisations denounced as “incitement to racial hatred”]. When the South Sudanese were forced to leave, I started to worry about my family’s safety. I asked my Israeli neighbour what he thought I should do and he told me not to worry. But at the beginning of July he changed his mind and advised me to book a flight.I have friends who decided to stay but I haven’t heard from them since I left. Most of them are worried that if they come back to Abidjan people will think they are pro-Gbagbo [Editor’s note: after the post-election crisis, supporters of Laurent Gbagbo received threats and some were forced to leave the country]. They would rather go to Cameroon, Benin, or Togo than come back to Ivory Coast.I don’t think Israelis are racist ; they just don’t like black people. They saw too many African immigrants arrive in their country in these past few years. [The government estimates that 62,000 African immigrants entered the country illegally since 2006.]