They are all foreigners, but some are of a better breed

Aug 06, 2010
*Special to asia!

The Israeli government voted to deport hundreds of children born to migrant workers  here in the country. It is astonishing how what would have been the country of Anne Frank has become one that deports children.


Star of David

The Star of David, the symbol of Israel and the Jewish people


On Tuesday, some 230 North Americans made aliyah to Israel. They made the choice to move as Jews to Israel where they will begin a new life. At the airport, they received the red carpet welcome, greeted by Israeli President Shimon Peres. They took photos and after they settle in as new Israeli citizens, 85 of them will enlist in the Israeli army.

Two days prior to that, the Israeli government voted to deport 400 children. These are children born to foreign workers in Israel who have failed to meet certain criteria. They would either be below the compulsory school-going age of five, or their parents would have been working illegally in Israel.

In a month, these children too would be at the same airport where the 230 new immigrants arrived, except that they will be forcibly sent off to a country they have never known.

I write this with due respect for the joy of the 230 new Israelis arriving in a country of their dreams. They have returned to their ancestral homeland, a place where many Jews believe is the only place where they will truly feel secure and at home. It is a moment to celebrate for them. It is also a brave decision since, at the same time, they will also face hardship and challenges that come from relocating to a new country.

These are the same difficulties that will await the 400 children who will be deported from Israel. Except that for the new Israelis, the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption has a system of benefits for them. A single can receive more than 15,700 shekels, or almost 4,000 USD in financial assistance. A family of five gets 51,000 shekels. They also get a support network to help them settle in.

The deported children will on the other hand have nothing to go to. Their parents had left their home countries, precisely because they could not make a decent living there. As for the children, they have grown up here in Israel, speaking perhaps even better Hebrew than some of the new North American immigrants. But that does not make them Israeli enough.

Their blood is not Jewish.


Jewish children

Jewish Israeli children


There is an Israeli law called the Right of Return that allows almost anyone with Jewish roots to immigrate to Israel. This is extended to their non-Jewish dependents as well. It is a controversial law, because of the Jewish pre-requisite. Palestinians whose families were forced to flee their villages during the 1948 and 1967 wars and have now been living in squalid Lebanese refugee camps do not qualify.

They are not Jewish.

But that is another story for another day.

The focus of this piece is on the children of these foreign workers. They come from different places, from the Philippines, Nepal, to Africa, and South America. They do menial jobs that Israelis do not want to do because the wages are too low. As a tanned Asian walking on the streets of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, I have been mistaken numerous times as a “pinoy”, or a Filipina. If the person asking the question is a Filipina herself, they will ask if I am a caregiver as well. Many Filipinas are employed here in Israel to help take care of the elderly or the sick.

Perhaps I should stop and state for the record here that this piece I am writing may fall short of the strictest standards of objective journalism. But I wonder about being stoic when writing about a country that is planning to send hundreds of children away because they are of the wrong race.

I like Israel. While I object to the hideous occupation of Palestinian territories and its unjust treatment of the people whose lands they took for their own, it does not take away from the fact that  I admire Israel, for how it works hard, and how much it accomplishes for a small country fraught with constant threats that no other nation experiences.

Today, I am sitting here wondering what has become of this country.

One of the first Jewish stories most of us non-Jews would have heard of would be the “Diary of A Young Girl”. How many hearts wrenched reading the words of the young Anne Frank, hiding from the Nazis hunting her down, knowing that in the end, she suffered the same fate as millions of other Jews in the Holocaust?

She was killed because of her race. She was killed because she was Jewish.

How does a country that knows first hand the insidiousness of racial persecution turn around and be a perpetrator of that same atrocity just two generations on? Are our memories as human beings so short?



Photo of a Holocaust survivor

Photograph taken of a Jewish man at the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp


dan-chyi chua

Dan-Chyi Chua was a broadcast journalist, before forsaking Goggle Box Glitz for the Open Road. A three-year foray led her through the Middle East, China, SE Asia, Latin America and Cuba, and she's now grounded herself as a writer for, content with spending her days in Jerusalem.

Contact Dan-Chyi