In the continuing battle to prevent the deportation of 1,200 foreign workers' children, a few dozen protesters gathered outside Interior Minister Eli Yishai's office in the capital on Wednesday.
Over the past month, 3,200 people have signed an online petition organized by Avaaz, an international social action site, and Israeli Children, an organization working to thwart the deportations, calling on Yishai to cancel the orders or resign.
Avaaz and Israeli Children brought protesters to Jerusalem to show Yishai that "the public struggle isn't going anywhere, it's not going to end," said Raluca Ganea, a senior organizer at Avaaz.
Late last month, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided to allow the children of foreign workers to stay until the end of August so they can finish their school year.
"The 1,200 children received time and not status," Yishai said.
Emotions ran high at the protest, as adults and children voiced opposition to the planned deportations.
"He [Yishai] is supposed to take care of all people in Israel, not only Jews," Ganea said. "Instead, he is promoting a racist policy - he cannot continue to function as interior minister."
In late October, Yishai was harshly criticized by the public and politicians after saying illegal aliens should be forced out as they bring drugs and disease to Israel.
"We are talking about people here," protester Nimrod Evron said. "These are kids, they don't know anything else, this is their home, this is their culture."
I came here because these are Israeli children," said Desire Kilongo, another demonstrator. "We are fighting for their right to stay. They study here, they were born here, they know more about this country than anywhere else - they belong here."
The protesters all said they hoped that Yishai would be forced to cancel the deportations and that they would not stop fighting for the children's rights.
"We hope to create enough noise so that the government cannot ignore us," Ganea said.
Some expressed hope that Yishai would change his mind.
"I think he'll understand," Kilongo said. "He has to think twice - if he is a Jew, well, Jews take care of other people. I hope he will respond positively."Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Protesters also spoke about general citizenship issues.
"I think there needs to be a reconsideration of citizenship and who belongs here," Maya Shapiro said. "It seems like there is momentum picking up to make these kind of discussions happen."
Indeed, the 1,200 children are a small part of the 430,000 foreign workers in Israel, who account for 5% of the population.
"These kids are important and this issue [of citizenship] is important," Shapiro continued. "This is just an opening to a solid immigration policy - these are humans and humans deserve rights."