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migrant workers children 311 .(Photo by: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Rally for foreign workers’ children
Hundreds gather in Tel Aviv, call on government not to deport kids.
Thousands of people gathered in Tel Aviv on Tuesday evening in an effort to convince Interior Minister Eli Yishai to let the 1,200 children of foreign workers who were born in Israel stay here.

As the school year nears its end, and with it the moratorium on the government’s decision to deport the children of foreign workers, activists, politicians and celebrities came together to call on the government to reverse its decision and grant the children permanent residency.

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The event, which was co-sponsored by the children’s rights group Israeli Children and UNICEF Israel, was held under the slogan “Israelis don’t deport children.”

“Eli Yishai, deporting these children means sending them into exile. Do you remember what it’s like to be in exile?” asked the event’s host, activist journalist Guy Meroz. “We won’t let you deport the children, not a single child.”

The demonstration was timed to coincide with a critical moment in the children’s deportation saga. This week, an interministerial committee is supposed to decide on the fate of the children and present its recommendations to Yishai.

Early reports indicate that the committee will decide to recommend that a majority of the children – those who are over five years old and attend Israeli schools – be allowed to stay, but event organizers said the committee’s decision is not final and that the final say belongs to Yishai and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

“Those who support the deportation, headed by Eli Yishai, always speak about what’s scary about the foreigners,” said Israeli Children director Rotem Ilan.

“I am not afraid of them bringing in diseases or stealing jobs. I’m afraid to live in a country that imports human beings but treats them like machines. I’m afraid of government-sponsored campaigns that preach xenophobia. I’m afraid to live in a country that can even consider arresting and deporting children.

“But when I look around me tonight I am filled with hope and belief that we can make a change and that these 1,200 children receive citizenship in their homeland,” Ilan concluded.

“Israelis enjoyed having foreigners come here to build our houses, work our fields and care for our parents and handicapped. But suddenly they started to mate and have children and we weren’t prepared for that,” said Meroz. “We must understand that we are the ones who brought their parents here and we owe them the possibility to live here with dignity.”

“The state keeps on bringing more and more foreign workers. The employment agencies make loads of money off commission fees and the immigration authorities have work to do. It is all part of a revolving-door mechanism oiled by money and special interests,” said Orly Vilnai, Meroz’s wife and on-screen partner, who co-hosted the event.

Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman, in a direct plea to Netanyahu, called on him to “make the moral decision and let the children stay.

“The children shouldn’t have to pay for the mistakes of this and previous governments. We have made it clear that this is a one-time agreement. If we want to be a light onto the nations, we must let the children stay,” said Braverman. “A strong state is a just state.”

Other politicians on hand were Meretz MKs Nitzan Horowitz and Ilan Gilon and Hadash MK Dov Khenin. Others who didn’t attend, but sent videotaped greetings were Education Minister Gideon Saar, Welfare and Social Services Minister Yitzhak Herzog, Eitan Cabel, Shaul Mofaz, Zehava Galon, Nachman Shai, Carmel Shama, Shlomo Molla, Amir Peretz and Haim Oron.
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