District Court judge: Allow foreign workers' children in

Interior Ministry is forcing mothers into a "Solomonic dilemma."

king solomon 88 (photo credit: courtesy)
king solomon 88
(photo credit: courtesy)
A district court judge has sharply rebuked the Interior Ministry for forcing foreign workers with children abroad into a "Solomonic dilemma" and urged it to change its policy. Under current ministry regulations, a non-Israeli mother who has gained status here - usually through marriage - but has left her children abroad for more than two years can't legally bring them here to live. In the case ruled on by Tel Aviv District Court Judge Oded Mudrick this week, a Moldovan citizen, Natalia Shpunt, had left her seven-year-old daughter with the child's grandparents so that she could earn money in Israel to send home. During the two years she was here working illegally, she met and married an Israeli citizen, Sergei Shpunt, and applied to the Interior Ministry to be allowed to bring her daughter to live with them. Since more than two years had elapsed by the time the ministry examined the application, the request was rejected. She could either stay here with her husband and leave her daughter behind, or leave her husband to return to Moldova. "It's outrageous," charged lawyer Nicole Maor, who represented the Shpunts on behalf of the Reform Movement's Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC). "Any moral, ethical, Jewish country cannot do this to people." Maor argued that the Interior Ministry was "punishing" women who left their children behind to make money "to feed them." Mudrick largely accepted Maor's position and wrote in his opinion, issued Sunday, that "the reasonableness of this regulation is undermined... in situations in which the separation of the parent and the child is forced." He found that women who go abroad to provide for their families should be viewed as undergoing a forced separation. He also said the policy is not in line with a recent High Court decision that called family reunification "a right" of Israeli citizens. In concluding, Mudrick wrote, "The weight of the dilemma that faces the petitioner in this case is no less than the weight of the dilemma that was placed before the mother who went to King Solomon in the myth of 'Solomon's Judgement.' Except in this case, it's actually the Interior Ministry that plays the 'role' of the 'foreign' [false] mother." He ordered the special exemptions committee in the Interior Ministry - which has the power to grant Natalia Shpunt's daughter status in spite of the regulations - to reconsider her case when it reconvenes in September, adding, "I hope the decision of the exemptions committee will be different" than that of the false mother. While Maor acknowledged that the committee could still choose to deny status - a decision her organization would immediately appeal - she welcomed Mudrick's ruling. Anat Hoffman, IRAC's executive director, also praised the "principle" established by the judge. "Our organization was part of making the State of Israel more Jewish," she said. "We were putting parents in a most unacceptable place, a place between giving up their child or their spouse [or] the country." Sabine Haddad, spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry's Population Registry, didn't comment on the details of the case, but said simply that someone who had left his or her child behind while in Israel had clearly violated the current policy.