Jamaysa Yael Bontong
Jamaysa Yael Bontong and her new Israeli ID
Photo: Israel Police
 Jamaysa Yael Bontong and her new Israeli ID

Operation Israeli citizen

Border Police officer Jamaysa Yael Bontong was born in Israel 20 years ago to a Filipina mother and Thai father, but never had Israeli nationality; when her commanders discovered that she wasn't a citizen, they embarked on a mission that ended in a very special ceremony

Meir Turgeman |
Published: 12.06.19 , 23:23
Even though 20-year-old Border Police officer Jamaysa Yael Bontong was born in Israel and doing military service, she was never an official citizen of Israel - until recently.
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  • Her path to an Israeli passport began last year when her commanders discovered that she was not a citizen and embarked on a new mission to change that. The mission ended last weekend, when Bontong received her Israeli ID in a moving ceremony in Jerusalem.
     Jamaysa Yael Bontong and her new Israeli ID  Jamaysa Yael Bontong and her new Israeli ID
    Jamaysa Yael Bontong and her new Israeli ID
    (Photo: Israel Police)
    Bontong pledged her allegiance to Israel during a naturalization ceremony at the Interior Ministry in Jerusalem, accompanied by her direct commander Uri Levy.
    "I declare that I will be a loyal citizen to the State of Israel," Bontong said excitedly as she received her Israeli ID card, officially making her a citizen.
    Bontong is the daughter of Maria Fatima Bontong, a Filipino woman who came to Israel to work as a carer for an elderly woman.
    In Israel, Maria met Suchet, a foreign worker from Thailand, and the two had two daughters together, who they raised as Israelis in every way.
    But Jamaysa was just 14, her father was deported when his working visa expired, and she recalls these years as nothing less than a nightmare.
    "Every time immigration knocked on our door, I was afraid that was the end," she says. "I was very lucky that the elderly lady that my mom cared for did everything she could so we could stay in Israel."
    "She was nothing less than our grandmother," she recalls. "My mother was her entire world, it's thanks to her we're still here."
    Maria and Bontong's 16-year-old sister have both received temporary resident status, giving them certain privileges such as unemployment benefits and health care.
    A little over a year ago, Bontong enlisted in the Border Police, like many of her peers who have to do mandatory military service.
    "I'm so happy to serve in the Border Police," she says. "I'm being treated as an Israeli who does her part to keep the country safe."

    Jamaysa Yael Bontong poses with her new Israeli ID  and her commander Uri Levy  Jamaysa Yael Bontong poses with her new Israeli ID  and her commander Uri Levy
    Jamaysa Yael Bontong poses with her new Israeli ID and her commander Uri Levy
    (Photo: Israel Police)
    Bontong's commander Uri Levy says he and his fellow officers were determined to help her become Israeli in law as well as spirit.
    "Jamaysa came to me after her Filipino passport expired, and since she wasn't technically an Israeli citizen she couldn't receive an Israeli passport," Levy says, adding that that was when they decided to implement "Operation Israeli Bontong."
    A year after her commanders appealed to Population and Immigration Authority, the request was approved.
    "Israeli citizenship is truly a special thing, and we're extremely happy that we had the privilege to make Jamaysa not only into a fine soldier who protects her country, but into a bona fide Israeli," says Levy.
    First published: 23:23 , 12.06.19
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