Tel Aviv protest: 'Let the kids stay'

Hundreds march against deportation of foreign worker's children.

August 14, 2010 21:19
3 minute read.
Foreign Workers' kids at a protest in Tel Aviv

foreign workers' kids 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Hundreds of protesters took part in a demonstration against the government’s decision to deport 400 children of foreign workers, in Tel Aviv, on Saturday evening.

The protesters called on the government to reverse its decision to deport the families of children who failed to meet criteria set out by an inter-ministerial decision, claiming the decision was “heartless,” and that allowing the children to stay would strengthen Israel’s reputation as a humane and moral state.

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The protesters carried signs reading “No to the deportation,” and “Let the children stay.”

On Friday, Prime Minister Binyamin Neyanyahu’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, sent a letter to Interior Minister Eli Yishai pleading with him to find a solution that would allow the children destined to be deported to remain in the country. Yishai has been at the forefront of the initiative to expel the children and their families, claiming they posed a threat to Israel’s Jewish character and that allowing them to stay would set a dangerous precedent.

“Dear Eli, I turn to you as a mother of two young sons and a psychologist in the public service,” Netanyahu wrote to Yishai. “From the depth of my heart, I ask of you to exercise your authority... and allow most of the 400 children to stay in Israel.”

She added that she had expressed her opinion about the children of foreign workers to her husband on several occasions prior to the government’s decision and that her entreaties may have influenced the prime minister’s decision to let 800 of the children remain in Israel.

“Israel must find a solution for these children. I would like to believe that my pleas on this matter helped the prime minister’s position that 800 out of 1,200 children in question were allowed to stay. I am certain that in this case too, you can find a creative solution for the children of the foreign workers [through] the government’s decision and the power you hold as interior minister, in a way which will not harm Israel’s national interests as a Jewish state and its policy on immigration,” Netanyahu wrote.

Yishai has been adamant in his belief that all of the foreign workers’ children should be deported, stating in a Wednesday interview with The Jerusalem Post “Former prime ministers [Ariel] Sharon and [Ehud] Olmert both said a ‘bit more and then that’s it.’ There is no end to it. I wouldn’t let any of them stay here, not 800, not even one.”

The decision to deport the 400 children that don’t meet certain criteria to stay in Israel has been controversial. Some including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, have characterized the move as "inhumane and un-Jewish."

According to the latest government decision, in order to meet the criteria to stay, children must be registered in the Israeli school system. They must speak Hebrew. They had to have been either born in Israel, or entered before their 13th birthday. They had to have lived in Israel for at least five consecutive years and the children's parents had to have entered Israel under a legal permit.

Detractors of the decision have pointed at Yishai personally, prompting the interior minister to complain of a “lynch” against him in an interview with Army Radio on Thursday.

Among the protesters in Tel Aviv was another famous spouse. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s wife, Aliza, has been active in the battle to have the children remain for months and has repeatedly  called for the government to show compassion and allow all the children to stay in the country.

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