“We all feel and understand the emotions of children. And yet, it is important to ensure that the Jewish character of the State of Israel stays intact.” In his classic rhetorical style, Benjamin Netanyahu rebuked any criticism of his government’s decision to enact legislation that calls for the deportation of the 400 children of immigrant workers in the Holy Land.
Among those risking deportation “effective after the termination of yearly scholastic obligations” are children born on Jewish land, who speak perfect Hebrew, who attend school, but who have not resided in the Jewish state for a minimum of 5 years. In other words, if you are an Israeli child between 0 days and 4 years and 364 days old with immigrant parents, you are a potential deportee.
Eli Yishai, the Interior Minister and important figure within the ultra-orthodox Shas party, has found himself in the middle of a fierce debate with opponents of this immigration law, among which are several government officials and groups for the protection of children such as Israeli Child. Ilan Rotem, the president of Israeli Child, stated: “We are talking about children here. They are the children of people who are in Israel to work in full legality; these people sow our fields, build our homes, and take care of our elderly. They have the right to be able to take care of their children too.” In response to Netanyahu’s statements that the new legislation aims to preserve the cultural integrity of the country, Rotem says, “it is the deportation of innocent children that threatens the character of Israel. Respect and kindness towards strangers it the commandment most frequently repeated in the Tora.”
The immigration regulations decree that those coming to Israel to work are not allowed to bring their families, or even get engaged while in Israel. And so, like the Department of Homeland security in the United States, the Oz, Israel’s special police force specifically mobilized to track down immigrants, is on the hunt. Their objective is to deport all the clandestines within 2013.
During a protest in Jerusalem the national newspaper Haaretz interviewed Aman Arpon, an 8 year old student who is risking deportation back to the Philippines. “They deported my father seven years ago and now I live with my mother and we want to stay here because this is my home. My mother was already arrested once and they let her go once they realized that she was a mom. Since then I have been very afraid.”
The Tel Aviv government started their immigration reforms in 1987 after the First Intifada. Since then, Palestinian workers have been replaced with Thai workers in the agricultural sectors and Philippinos in elderly care.
translated by Giovanni Zenati