"I can't leave Israel without seeing my daughter's grave," said African migrant John Mavin Mavin Jal, who claims IDF soldiers took his stillborn child and refused to tell him where she was buried. "I must know where she is buried so I can say goodbye."
Three years ago Jal (23) and his wife Aguk Anvi Aguar (22), who was eight months pregnant, crossed into Israel
following a grueling journey from South Sudan.
"We had no food or water, and I wasn't even sure we had entered Israel. My wife was very tired and couldn't walk anymore," he recalled. "After three days she suddenly gave birth in the desert. It was a girl. She was born dead. My wife just sat there and wept."
Jal eventually made it to an IDF base and told soldiers his wife was waiting by the Egyptian border with the baby's body. A military ambulance transported the couple and the body to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.
"I saw my baby being placed in a box. I haven't seen her since," Jal told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily. "At the hospital soldiers told me she was buried, but when I asked them to take me to the grave they refused."
A few days later the couple was taken to Arad, where they were treated along with other families from South Sudan. Jal found a job, and the couple moved to the north. A year later Aguk gave birth to a son. Jal, who was a political activist in South Sudan, is one of the leaders of the South Sudanese community in Israel.
Addressing a recent court ruling which effectively allows the State to send some 1,500 South Sudanese migrants back to their home country, Jal said "I do not feel safe going back there. On the other hand, the situation here is bad as well. (Migrants) have lost their jobs and are living without gas or water, and landlords are threatening to kick them out to the street.
"(Israelis) on the street tells us 'Sudanese, go home.' We'll do as we are told, because we have no choice, but we'll also seek the UN's intervention," he told Yedioth.
Jal said he has been trying to locate his daughter's gravesite. Now, before he leaves Israel, he has one last request: "According to our tradition a person cannot be buried without first being identified by relatives. I ask that the State of Israel allow me to see the grave and make sure my daughter is really buried there."