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The Other Israelis
Posted on Aug 7, 2011
Such regulations are a violation of basic human rights, said Kav LaOved’s Lebovitch.
“Who on earth has the right to tell you not to have a child? Not to start a family? Asking about regulating that it is ridiculous, because no one is allowed to regulate such a thing,” she said.
But Aren De Silva and her family have been given new life.
In April, the Israeli Supreme Court struck down the regulation. Workers can now remain in Israel with their children until their allotted 63-month employment period ends. New regulations, the court said, must not “unreasonably and disproportionately [violate] human rights, which should be guarded vigilantly.”
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Since the government began formulating plans to deport scores of children two years ago, numerous Israelis and American Jewish groups have come to the aid of immigrants. Of all people, Jews—who have been subject to persecution for centuries—should recognize the plight of the children, they argued.
“It is sad to know the country can treat children like this,” said Michal Katz, an 18-year-old Israeli scout, who showed up to support the children at the Purim bash.
As part of her service in the scouts—a Zionist youth group that allows Israelis to defer army service for a year—Katz volunteers at Bialik-Rogozin, a South Tel Aviv school that serves migrant and refugee children and was featured in an Oscar-winning documentary.
“[The children] don’t want to go to another country. They don’t know other countries,” she said, adding that she noticed more Israelis turning against plans to deport the children.
“Those kids have a lot of support from the citizens in Israel,” she said proudly.
But the country constantly frets over demographic challenges to its Jewish majority, especially from its Arab citizens, who make up 20 percent of the population and maintain a higher birthrate.
“We all feel and understand the hearts of children,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last year, quoted by The New York Times. “But on the other hand, there are Zionist considerations and ensuring the Jewish character of the state of Israel. The problem is that these two components clash.”
At the March Purim festivities, Dave De Silva dismissed the notion of sending Drew Jade to the Philippines to ensure his family’s legal status as “idiotic.” Although he holds a conditional residency card, Dave said lawyers have warned him he could face deportation if his family is discovered.
“For me, I decided my son rather than the paper,” he said, as Aren and Drew Jade played on a seesaw perched on a green-topped playground teeming with other Filipino children.
Migrant workers are treated “like animals,” Dave said in March, explaining workers are imported to construct buildings, take care of the elderly and grow crops, but then forced out for the simplest human act.
“We are people who come here to work,” he said. “It’s natural: We fall in love. We have kids. We get married. But they don’t understand it. They think this must be religious, this must be Jewish.”
Reached by phone after the ruling, the 20-year-old father was unaware of the change in law. Dave said he has tremendous respect for the Israelis who have advocated for him and his family. However, he said, that respect doesn’t extend to Israel’s government, not even the historically liberal Supreme Court.
“I don’t trust them,” he said. “They will keep on catching kids.”
The Ministry of Interior has suspended its plans to deport the children and parents of migrant workers who became illegal under the former pregnancy regulation, said Lachmanovitch, who charged that illegal workers use their children as anchors to stay in Israel, even though many became illegal only after giving birth.
“Until the Supreme Court changes its mind, we will stop sending them back,” he said.
But for some, the ruling came too late.
In March, Kav LaOved’s waiting room bustled with workers seeking help navigating a complicated bureaucracy that governs their lives while in Israel.
In the corner, Aradhane cradled her 2-month-old baby girl, Alisha. The newborn was wrapped tightly in a multicolored blanket; nearly hidden from view except for a small, white fleece hat festooned on her tiny head.
The pair wouldn’t be together for long.
In four days, Aradhane said she planned to leave Israel, drop Alisha off in India, and then return in May to resume caring for elderly Israelis.
“I am going to leave [her] with my mother, because there is no choice,” the 30-year-old caregiver said in a reserved tone tinged with sadness. “Every time they scare us. They say ‘Children has to go, children has to go.’ ”
As of the Passover holiday, the government had deported seven women and eight children since announcing its plans last summer, according to the Hotline for Migrant Workers. About 400 children and their parents were targeted for deportation in August.
“If the government of Israel doesn’t want these children, they should stop bringing their parents,” said the hotline’s Rozen. “But as long as they bring their parents, they cannot ignore the fact that they are humans and not work machines.”
In 2010, 32,000 migrant workers entered the country legally on work permits, according to a government report. Approximately 211,000 migrant workers were in the country that year, the report said, about half of them illegally.
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