Compassion vs. law

Several Israeli radio and television news anchors have expressed outrage at the way Israeli-born children of Filipino descent are being treated by PIBA.

August 15, 2019 21:24
Compassion vs. law

Filipino children protest their imminent deportation outside the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem, Israel. (photo credit: CASSANDRA GOMES HOCHBERG)

 Philippines Ambassador Nathaniel Imperial has written to Education Minister Rafi Peretz, Democratic Union leader Nitzan Horowitz and MK Tamar Zandberg to thank them for their show of support and compassion for Filipino nationals and their children, who are facing possible deportation due to their undocumented status in Israel.

Imperial wrote that his embassy has reminded Filipino nationals to respect and abide by Israeli laws and regulations, and that the embassy cooperates with the Population and Immigration Authority (PIBA) to ensure that repatriations are carried out in the most orderly and humane manner.
In his letter to Peretz, Imperial wrote: “I acknowledge, as well, your deep concern for the possible impact of these events on undocumented Filipino children and for speaking up on behalf of their welfare. The Embassy recognizes the challenges that our nationals and their children will face upon return to the Philippines. We have sought to address these by providing repatriation benefits to our workers. Since 2017, we have also partnered with a local school, Bialik Rogozin, on an after-school Filipino Language and Culture program that seeks to teach young Filipinos our national language and provide them with information about their country and cultural identity.”

Several Israeli radio and television news anchors have expressed outrage at the way Israeli-born children of Filipino descent are being treated by PIBA.

In an interview on Reshet Bet this week, PIBA Director-General Shlomo Mor Yosef admitted that on a personal level, he felt uncomfortable with the deportations, but insisted that every country has immigration laws which must be adhered to and Israel is no exception, especially if it wants to maintain its Jewish character.

■ COINCIDENCE IS an interesting phenomenon. On the same day that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announced he will move to indict Social Services Minister Haim Katz, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan publicly declined a proposal to serve as Israel Ambassador to the United Nations. There are more suitable candidates such as former Israel ambassador to the US Michael Oren, but Erdan is aware that if Katz is indeed indicted, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not be able to stay out of court for much longer. Erdan does not want to miss the chance to participate in the next Likud leadership race. After all, with or without indictment, there has to eventually be an end to the Netanyahu era.

The other coincidence was that a day after a publication on the mistreatment of lone soldiers by certain IDF commanders, 41 lone soldiers-to-be were among the 242 new immigrants from North America, who arrived in Israel early on Wednesday morning. Among the potential lone soldiers who arrived through Nefesh B’Nefesh, are three who have an ear in high places. One is Nathan Rabinowitz, 22, who is related to President Reuven Rivlin; the other is Lily Daroff, the daughter of newly installed executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, William Daroff. Lastly, Nechama Miller is the daughter of Michael Miller, the executive vice president and chief executive officer of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.

■ AT AGE 92, the ever erudite professor Alice Shalvi is still running around to cultural and feminist events, and was in the front row of a book launch on Wednesday at the Tel Aviv residence of Canadian Ambassador Deborah Lyons. It wasn’t Shalvi’s book Never a Native that was being launched, yet again. It was the Hebrew edition the prize-winning The Dead Man by Canadian novelist Prof. Nora Gold, who divides her time between Toronto and Jerusalem.
A former tenured professor, Gold was an associate scholar and writer in residence at the Center for Women’s Studies in Education at OISE/University of Toronto from 2000-2018, where she created the Wonderful Women Writers Series that she still coordinates at the Toronto Public Library. She is also the founding editor-in-chief of, a prestigious online journal that publishes Jewish-themed fiction from around the world, either in English or translated into English. To date, there have been translations from 16 languages and readers of the journal come from 140 countries.

Among her many activities, Gold is a social activist, community worker, and has served on numerous committees, task forces, boards and advisory councils. She is particularly interested in issues relating to disability and multiculturalism, but most of all, she is engaged in support for Israel.

In 1982, she was among the founders of the Canadian branch of the New Israel Fund, and for 18 years served as its vice president. For much of this time, she also sat on NIF’s International Board and later on was its International Executive.

In Jerusalem, she was one of the founding members of the Yedidya Congregation. She is involved in a host of other activities, including Canadian Friends of Givat Haviva, which promotes understanding between Israel’s Jewish and Arab youth.

Gold and her good friend, Prof. Shuli Barzilai – an expert on Canadian literature, particularly the writings of Margaret Atwood – discussed The Dead Man as each of them read excerpts in both Hebrew and English to illustrate the importance of language and the challenges faced by translation.

Shalvi, an Israel Prize laureate, is a retired English professor, one of Israel’s leading feminists and an NIF Board Member. So she had several reasons to attend the event, which was moderated by Canada’s new Deputy Chief of Mission, Martin Larose, who arrived in Israel 10 days prior.

Gold’s three novels, which have each won prizes, all have Jewish themes. In presenting a synopsis of The Dead Man, she mentioned themes including obsessive love, mental illness, feminism, Israel and Diaspora, the power of music and the pull of Jerusalem. Barzilai made the point that translation of any work should not be taken for granted, as the translator has to give proper consideration as to who thinks of the lines and who speaks them.
Without giving too much away, Barzilai said that the essential message of the book is it’s never too late to grow up and assume responsibility.

■ GIVEN THE right encouragement and environment, almost anyone – including those who have sunk to the very dregs of society – can be rehabilitated. Proof of this was seen on Wednesday when President Reuven Rivlin was pleasantly surprised by Sgt. Yossi Shishman at a changing of the guard ceremony at the President’s Residence. The event marked the official appointment of the president’s new military adjutant, Col. Ala Abu Rokun, who along with his new title was also promoted to the rank of brigadier-general and had the insignia of his new rank pinned on him by Rivlin and Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi.

Among those present were members of the army’s top brass, the security establishment, key figures in the Druze community and family members of Abu Rokun and his predecessor, Brig.-Gen. Boaz Hershkowitz, who completed three years of service in that role.

Abu Rokun, a 47-year-old resident of Usfiya, was previously Israel’s military attache in China. A former paratrooper, he later served in the intelligence branch of the IDF for many years. Married with four children, he has a PhD in Middle East studies from Bar-Ilan University. In his new role, he will serve as the liaison between the president and the IDF, Israel Security Agency, Mossad, the Israel Police and the Prison Service.

Hershkowitz had an emotional surprise for Rivlin as he had been mentoring Sgt. Shishman of the Givati Brigade. Rivlin had previously met Shishman during a visit to Beit Assaf pre-military academy, which had been headed by the late Rona Ramon, who did so much for Israel’s space industry and toward educating underprivileged youth.

Shishman grew up in Lod, where he had been exposed to a host of negative influences. At age 12, he became addicted to drugs. At age 16, he received his first jail sentence. After spending time at Ofek Prison, he was sent to a rehabilitation village, and from there, to a pre-military preparatory academy. He was illiterate at the time.

When Rivlin met him for the first time, Shishman gave a fluent address without reading from a prepared text. Rivlin was impressed and commended him on this ability, to which Shishman replied that he had to develop it because of his inability to read or write.

Literacy was included in his rehab program, and after considerable effort, he was finally able to join the IDF, beginning his service at the Havat Hashomer base. He was so determined to prove himself and validate the faith others had put in him, that he completed basic training and the combat training course with honors.

Proud of his achievements, Rivlin gave Shishman a warm hug, almost like a father to a son.

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