Save a practicing Jewish family from being deported to Pakistan - opinion

This family has lived only as a Jewish family, including celebrating Shabbat and all Jewish festivals. The children have been raised Jewish. They want to make aliyah.

 FAMILY MEMBERS pose for a photo in 2016 when they were still in Pakistan. (photo credit: Joan Shrensky)
FAMILY MEMBERS pose for a photo in 2016 when they were still in Pakistan.
(photo credit: Joan Shrensky)

In its editorial on March 3, “Treating refugees,” The Jerusalem Post states: “It is high time that Israel stop being so stringent in its opposition to absorbing refugees from distressed situations. Israel is a strong country, its Jewish character and essence unthreatened by hundreds – or even thousands – of people who desperately need a haven. Just like we welcome in Jews from around the world with open arms, in times of war, we should do the same with whoever needs our refuge.”

We would like to tell you about one family of only five (mother, father, 17- and 13-year-old boys and 14-year-old girl) who are being denied entry into Israel because they have the wrong passport and insufficient documentation to prove their Jewish descent.

Until five months ago, they were living in Pakistan, where they were subject to religious persecution as practicing Jews. They were often beaten by their neighbors, and the children were often punished by teachers for no reason and were forced to read the Koran. The father and two sons were intentionally hit by automobiles, resulting in serious injuries, including broken bones and hospitalization.

The eldest son was beaten to force him to attend the local mosque. On more than one occasion, the Pakistani authorities came to the family residence to take the young daughter for marriage to a Muslim man. Fortunately, they were not successful.

When videos and pictures of the children celebrating the Jewish holidays went viral a few years ago, the parents lost their jobs, forcing them to flee their residence and live in safe houses provided by friends.

A view of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Islamabad, Pakistan, April 20, 2017. (credit: REUTERS/CAREN FIROUZ)A view of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Islamabad, Pakistan, April 20, 2017. (credit: REUTERS/CAREN FIROUZ)

No one in the family is halachically Jewish. The mother’s family originally came to India via Iran. Her grandparents were born in India, but prior to the partition of the country moved to an area that then became part of Pakistan. Most of the family converted to Islam or Christianity in previous generations.

The mother’s father, on the other hand, had a tradition of Jewish practices, including prayers, dating back to his great-grandmother. The mother was brought up as a Jewish child, learning customs and practices from her father and his Jewish friends. Her father told her that when he was gone, she should search for rabbis on the Internet and learn from them. She should “only believe Jewish” and “never stop running on Hashem’s path.”

This family has lived only as a Jewish family, including celebrating Shabbat and all Jewish festivals. For the past five years, our family and friends organized matzah and other kosher-for-Passover foods to be sent to the family from America. Due to the fact that, in Pakistan, no one is allowed to receive anything from Israel or with Jewish words or symbols, everything had to be repacked in neutral packaging. 

The children have been raised Jewish. In 2013, the family was introduced to Chabad. Since 2013, the entire family has been studying Judaism online with Chabad and other rabbis. They have also studied for halachic conversion with an Israeli conversion teacher. Their dream is to convert and, with God’s blessing, make aliyah. The family was rejected a number of years ago by the Interior Ministry because they are not halachically Jewish; nor can they prove that the mother’s father or his maternal ancestors were Jewish. 

We have been in touch with several Israeli “influencers” with government connections. Currently, the Israeli government is hesitating to grant entry for the family because of their Pakistani passports. No one is willing to make the crucial decision that will allow this family access into Israel.

AFTER MANY years of trying, the family finally managed to leave Pakistan with the help of many friends on three-month tourist visas to the UAE. These visas were extended but expired at the end of last month. 

The family has been trying to obtain UAE ID cards as expatriate residents, which would allow them to stay in the UAE without obtaining additional visas. However, the cost for five IDs is $13,300. If one looks on UAE official websites, it should only cost $135. We have been unable to determine the reason for the difference in cost. Additionally, two-months’ rent and food will cost an additional $4,400.

While we started a crowdfunding campaign, we have been unable to raise the necessary funds. Without immediate intervention with either the Israel government or the UAE government or obtaining the necessary funds, the family will be deported to Pakistan, where the worst scenario is envisioned. Our immediate goal is to prevent this tragic event.

However, our crowdfunding page did attract the attention of some well-meaning individuals, who have spent the past couple of weeks fundraising or contacting government officials to take up this family’s cause. While we did have one meeting with a member of Knesset, we were told that the Pakistan passport is a problem.

On the other hand, there have been some disappointments. We turned to various refugee organizations for assistance but with no success. They seem more concerned with large groups, previously the Afghan refugees and now the Ukrainian refugees.

One prominent individual told them, while the family was still in Pakistan, “If you can get out of Pakistan, I will help you.” So, the family got out of Pakistan. When they turned to this individual, who is in a position to help them in their current situation, he basically turned his back on them.

This family desperately wants to come to Israel, convert to Judaism in an Orthodox conversion process and make aliyah. However, first we have to prevent them from being deported back to Pakistan.

Joan is founder and former director of Gan Harmony. Don is a retired US/Israel CPA.