Free Your Mind

CIMI’s Dylan Sandler reflects on her experience at the opening day of CIMI’s new project, which provides enriching, university-level courses to asylum seeker residents of Holot Detention Center.



As Ahmed, a middle-aged adult male from Sudan, smiled and said, “This is great…giving us freedom with the one thing we have—our education,” I quickly understood the enormous positive impact of Ben Gurion University’s 8-week adult education program for residents of Holot. It was after our morning course and during lunch, which had been donated by a local NGO focusing on food security named Be’er Sova, when I first began speaking with Ahmed and heard his excitement for the Human Rights Law course just taken. Like many of the other 100 students, Ahmed was thrilled to be on the University’s campus, noting its size and beauty as he posed for pictures with the large bust of David Ben-Gurion.














Befitting its name, the ‘Free Your Mind’ program began with acknowledgments from Ben-Gurion University staff and professors, all stating their hopes of granting students freedom through education.  Throughout these acknowledgements, the students became eager to begin each course and invigorated by the connection between education and freedom. Prior to the start of classes, students were given a guided tour around the University, during which, many shared the excitement of simply being away from Holot. Ranging from ages 20-57, this group of Eritrean and Sudanese men included those who had not left Holot since arriving there (in some cases over a year) to those having just entered Holot the previous week.


Prompted by research interactions with Asylum Seekers, Ben-Gurion University initiated this 8-week adult education program that CIMI has helped develop and fund (EU). The program takes place once a week and includes, transportation by chartered bus, refreshments, lunch, and 2 of the 8 offered courses in which students previously registered. The program generated positive feedback from all those involved and also added an element of further learning for unaffiliated Ben Gurion University students due to the cultural shift of a large consistency of Asylum Seekers on campus. Ultimately, the program was great like Ahmed had stated, as education had in fact granted freedom whether just for the day, week, or full future ahead.