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Protest against migrant kids' deportation, Tel Aviv Photo: Yaron Brener
Protest against migrant kids' deportation, Tel Aviv Photo: Yaron Brener
 
 

Kids should leave Israel

Op-ed: Before allowing foreign kids to stay in Israel, we should keep the implications in mind

Nechama Duek
Published: 03.07.11, 11:19 / Israel Opinion

The easiest thing is to say that the children of foreign workers should be allowed to stay in the country. It sounds good. It sounds humane. The question of whether Israeli society can absorb thousands of foreign workers isn’t relevant. Yes, Israel can do it. That’s not the issue here.

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The problem is that Israel has no naturalization laws with the exception of the Law of Return, which grants automatic Israeli citizenship to anyone whose mother is Jewish, or whose grandfather was Jewish, even if his mother wasn’t, going back three generations.

 

In the United States, which we so much like to look up to, anyone born in the country is indeed granted American citizenship. However, one’s parents or other relatives do not become citizens.

 

When we speak about allowing foreign children to stay in Israel, we must note in the same breath that this will also mean that their parents, brothers and other associates will also remain in the country. Some of them arrived here illegally, and are now relying on their children who were born or educated here to stay in Israel.

 

Then there is another argument made in the public discourse: The children who grew up in Israel are not familiar with their home country and its language. However, I think this does not quite reflect reality. The foreign workers maintain close ties with their relatives in their home country, while sending money and helping their family. Indeed, the extended family is waiting back in the home country.

 

I also have a feeling that the children are fluent in their mother tongue, as their parents must be using it. And so, the above arguments do not reflect reality. Besides, why does it seem that uprooting a whole family from its home country is better than uprooting one young child from Israel?

 

It’s terrible to think that a child must leave a familiar landscape in favor of a much harsher reality at his home country. Hence, in my view, as far as we are dealing with foreign workers who arrived here by law, their children who were born here are entitled to citizenship. However, they should be able to take advantage of this citizenship only when they become adults; at that point, they can come and live with us here.

 

Meanwhile, the parents of these children should be allowed to stay here until their contract ends. At that point, they must return to their homeland with their children, who in the future will decide whether they wish to join us. While they’re still here, we should treat them with dignity and provide them with all the protection and support they’re entitled to.

 

 

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