A Russian mother was deported from Israel on Monday, after her Israeli partner passed away and she thus lost eligibility to become an Israeli citizen.
Her two children, Galina and Boris Levinshtein, aged 30 and 31, made aliya 14 years ago; they were eligible for citizenship according to the Law of Return as their paternal grandfather was Jewish. Their mother, Lia Makushina, has been living and working in Israel as a cleaner for the past six years. Her common-law marriage status with her partner Oleg, allowed her to obtain temporary citizenship and she was in the process of obtaining permanent citizenship.
But after the death of her partner earlier this year, the Interior Ministry summoned Makushina, 57, took away her ID card and terminated her citizenship process, according to an impassioned Facebook post written by her son.
“So after six years in Israel, a woman whose Israeli spouse is buried here and whose two children and grandson are Jewish citizens of Israel, she lost everything in one day,” Boris wrote on a Facebook page he set up titled: “Don’t deport my mother.”
His efforts have thus far been in vain, however, as he spoke to The Jerusalem Post
just before he boarded a flight to accompany his mother back to Russia.
The family had appealed to the humanitarian committee of the Interior Ministry, only to be answered with an order that she leave the country within 14 days. They appealed this decision, but were rejected.
After Lia’s ID card has been taken, she was given a tourist visa to stay in Israel until August.
“We are law-abiding citizens so if we see her visa is until August, she won’t stay here illegally,” Boris told the Post, but he means to continue to campaign for his mother to be able to return to live in Israel. He is appealing to the ministry to allow her to continue the process of obtaining permanent citizenship from the point where it was stopped after Oleg’s death.
The Population and Immigration Authority released a statement saying that “attempts to find a solution with the family were unsuccessful and Mrs. Makushina may visit her family as much as she wishes.”
“Our mother has been living here for six years and for her to return as a tourist is not fair,” Boris told the Post. “She feels that this is her home. She is more of a tourist in Russia than in Israel.”
Boris and Galina are Lia’s only children.
“We underwent the conversion process and we have lived here for 14 years. Israel is our home. I served in the army, I completed my undergraduate degree I’m starting my Master’s degree at the Technion university.
My sister has established a family in Israel and gave birth to a sweet baby named Michael this year. We are good citizens who contribute to and love the state,” he emphasized in his Facebook post.
In a direct appeal to Interior Minister Arye Deri, Boris wrote: “Is procedure stronger than the love between a mother and her children? Is it so easy to deport a woman whose entire life is here in the Land of Israel? I have no doubt what your answer will be and I have no doubt that you know very well what love is between a mother and her children. Therefore, we ask you, Minister, to work for a change that will enable our mother to live her life with the thing that is most dear to her – her family.”
When Lia reaches the age of 65, she could be eligible to request legal status in Israel according to a procedure that applies to elderly and single parents whose children are Israeli citizens. But Boris feels the age limitation is unjust and is campaigning to change it. “If they let these people in at the age of 65, why cause years of suffering by separating a family?” Boris asked in his interview with the Post.
He also opined that from an economic perspective it is illogical. “Who would take her for work at the age of 65?” he asked, noting that if she could remain here in Israel she would continue working and saving money for her retirement.
“I think from both moral and economic considerations to bring her at a younger age would be easier on both the parents and the children,” he said, noting that if she comes at 65 according to the elderly single parent regulation, her children must prove that they can support her financially.
Russian Israeli MK Ksenia Svetlova, of the Zionist Union party, has been trying to help the Levinshteins, and slammed Lia’s deportation as “outrageous.”
“They have a clear policy that if you are not Jewish you are not entitled to stay here. I think it damages Israel’s perception of a democratic state that also takes consideration humanitarian needs – and this is clearly a humanitarian need,” she said, noting that the state should at least offer Lia the option of residency, if not of full citizenship.
Svetlova plans to send a letter to President Reuven Rivlin
, calling on him to step in on the matter. “He is the last hope. He has a very large heart and should understand that this is not human, it’s not Jewish, to separate a mother from her children,” she told the Post.
She noted that she deals with dozens of cases of this kind but sees no glimmer of hope for change under the current government.
“We are seeing a sharp incline toward the uncompromising ultra-Orthodox side,” she lamented opining that a reform is needed in the Interior Ministry and that “the whole procedure and attitude should change.”
The Post did not receive a response to a request for comment from Interior Minister Arieh Deri’s spokesman.