Following a cabinet decision on Sunday that will see 400 foreign workers’
children – and family members – deported, hundreds of these would-be Israelis
found themselves in a state of shock mixed with panic, hoping they could find a
loophole to allow them to stay.
Many of those affected, in fact, are no
longer “children.” They are older teenagers or young adults who were looking to
build their lives in the country that – even if they were born elsewhere – is
the only home they can remember.
In his family’s modest apartment in the
Bnei Brak neighborhood of Pardes Katz, Edward “Eddy” Kasian was crestfallen and
“overcome with stress” on Monday, speaking to the Hotline for Migrant Workers
and hoping that somehow a solution could be found to let him stay in
Exasperated, his mother Galina said Monday that the family “is
trying to be calm, even taking pills to relax. It has been a very serious two
days and this is the second time we’ve taken such a serious
Nineteen-year-old Eddy has spent the last year since graduating
high school bouncing from one menial job to another, the best he has been able
to do since he can’t get the documents he needs that would help him find better
In the meantime, he’s stayed close to home with his parents and
12-year-old sister Dana, hoping to hear some good news about whether or not he
can stay in Israel, his home since he was 11.
On Sunday, he found out he
will soon have to leave the country he loves, for a country he hardly remembers,
whose language he hardly speaks.
Dana, who has been in Israel only three
years and is an aspiring track and field star at the neighborhood youth athletic
center, would also be forced to leave.
Born in Moldova, Eddy came to
Israel with his mother in 2002 as tourists and basically overstayed their visas.
Galina found work and the two settled in Pardes Katz, with his father and
younger sister following five years later. According to Galina, his maternal
great-grandmother was Jewish but converted to Christianity at a young age, and
as a result the Interior Ministry does not consider them eligible for
citizenship even under the relatively liberal clauses of the Law of
In 2006, the cabinet voted to grant permanent residence status to
around 900 children of foreign workers and asylum-seekers who had spent at least
five years in Israel. At the time, Eddy was three months short of being
eligible. Now Eddy is again ineligible to stay, because he finished high school
a year ago.
Eddy speaks flawless Hebrew with the easy, confident-
beyond-his-years style typical of Israeli teens, and looks no different than any
Israeli his age on the streets of Pardes Katz, where he has a large circle of
Israeli friends, both Russian and native-born.
At an age when young
people start planning for adulthood in the context of their lives to date, Eddy
will now have to set off for an uncertain future in Moldova, where he has no
friends and barely any sense of the place.
“There is so much stress that
comes with this, you feel a part of this country, and then they tear away the
only place where you feel you belong,” he explained.
“All my friends are
going into the army and of course I want to be there with them, to contribute to
the state and to test myself. I just assumed that it would work out by
Instead of serving in the IDF, Eddy may now be forced to serve
one-and-a-half years in the army of a country he doesn’t regard as his
Eddy had dreams of going to college to study communications, and
eventually finding a job working in broadcast media, a dream that is now being
“I don’t regret that we moved to Israel, but
sometimes I do think my parents may have made a mistake,” Eddy said last Friday,
when his status was still unclear.
“This has broken all of my dreams,” he
He hasn’t given up, however: he plans to submit his story to the
appeals committee that’s slated to be formed under the cabinet’s decision, and
expressed hope that he will still be allowed to stay.
IN SOUTH TEL AVIV
on Monday, 17-year-old Julio Antonio Hurca said he was “very worried, but doing
okay,” though the cabinet decision on Sunday means his days in Israel are almost
Hurca was born in Israel to a Chilean father and an
Argentine mother who worked for several years as a nanny for the family of
employees of the French Embassy in Jaffa. Julio’s mother, Mercedes, arrived in
Israel in 1990 with a diplomatic work visa that was valid until
Hurca is one of only a handful of the 400 youngsters who stand to
be deported based on a single stipulation in the recommendations that makes the
children whose parents were part of diplomatic missions here ineligible for
Over the last few months, while his friends have been
enjoying their summer, Julio has spent much of the time indoors with his mother,
helping her deal with the constant stress brought on by their situation and
dodging the immigration police in their home near the central bus
In his spare time, the powerfully built 17-yearold focuses on
his hobby, weightlifting.
He has a large circle of friends in Israel, a
mix of “normal,” native-born Israelis, and children of mixed and largely foreign
backgrounds like himself.
Since he was a young child, he has spent a
great deal of time with an elderly couple, Yaakov and Tova Nitzahon, who were
sort of “surrogate grandparents” for him.
The Nitzahons were Holocaust
survivors from Greece and spoke Ladino, so they were able to converse with Julio
in broken Spanish. Yaakov passed away two years ago, but Julio still manages to
visit Tova, whose world has recently been clouded by Alzheimer’s.
of the cabinet decision, Julio said of his only visit to Argentina at age 5, “I
didn't feel like it was my place. I feel Israeli, my friends are mostly Israeli
and this is where my life is. I have some family there, but my place is
Without either Argentine or Israeli citizenship, Julio says he
finds himself in a situation that even the Israelis he’s close to don’t
“The only people who are suffering in this situation are us,
the people who aren't allowed to live their lives freely. I think they don’t
understand and they don’t want to think about it.”
THE CABINET decision
came as a shock to Alejandra Lopez, 24, who finds herself falling through the
bureaucratic cracks for the second time – again due to a difference of six
Alejandra was born in the town of Armenia in central Colombia and
was raised by her mother after her father abandoned them. She arrived in Israel
from Colombia when she was 14, to live with her mother who had arrived six years
earlier as a foreign worker, leaving Alejandra in the care of extended
When she arrived in Israel, Alejandra enrolled in public school
and by the time the 2006 government decision was made, she was six months past
her 14th birthday, and thus not able to receive permanent residency status
according to the stipulations of that decision.
Now, Alejandra finds
herself in a similar situation: Her four-and-a-half-year old son Lior Adriel,
who was born in Israel to Alejandra and her Ecuadorian husband, Fernando
Corella, is six months short of being eligible – and making them eligible – for
permanent residence status under the new decision.
On Monday, after
finding out she was again missing a chance to gain permanent residency,
Alejandra was reeling from a mixture of heartbreak and déjà vu.
very sad, very upset and looking wherever we can to see if there is anything we
can do,” Alejandra said.
Lopez described her looming return to Colombia
as plagued by the uncertainty that comes with moving to a place that has changed
– just as she has over the past 10 years.
“It’s a very different life
here than in South America. My mom was here for 12 years and by the time she
went back the place had changed and so had she. If I go back it will be a brand
new place for me and I will have to start all over, just like my boy will,”
Lopez said, adding that Lior Adriel speaks only a little Spanish and has a much
better future in Israel.
Lior Adriel also attends Israeli day care and
all of his friends are Israeli, Alejandra said, adding that she and her husband
have not yet broken the news to their son.
The situation for Alejandra
and her husband is further complicated by the fact that Corella may not be able
to leave Israel with his wife and son if they are deported.
Before he met
and married Alejandra, Corella had a child with an Israeli girlfriend whom he
met abroad. He later moved with her to Israel, where they broke up. The mother
of Corella’s daughter has gotten a restraining order, forbidding him to leave
the country, to ensure that he pays child support.
When asked what she’ll
miss most about Israel, Alejandra mentioned her friends, most of whom
Israeli. She also said she’d miss going to the beach, traveling up north
Kinneret, and the Dead Sea, “all the things everyone else does
“It’s very difficult to think it’s coming, it doesn’t go into my
head, I just keep thinking that I must be able to do something. I’ve
these things over these years and to pick up and leave after a month is