Hundreds of people gathered in Tel Aviv's Lewinski Park on Saturday to protest the planned deportation of children of foreign workers. Just a few hours later, the Immigration Authority's Oz unit announced it was launching a massive city-wide search for illegal residents.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Thursday that the decision on the deportation of foreign workers' children will be postponed to October.
An aid organization that provides foreign workers with assistance said following the announcement that the operation was "a devious deed totally devoted to returning pride to the injured unit".
But Oz's director, Tziki Sela, told Ynet the operation had to be set in motion on Saturday evening because "this is when larger numbers of foreign workers and illegal residents gather in the area of the central bus station in Tel Aviv".
He said it was a routine search that had nothing to do with the prime minister's announcement or the press coverage of the new initiative to deport foreign workers' children.
Present at the protest earlier were MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) and MK Dov Khenin (Hadash). In a speech, Khenin said, "It's time to put an end to the slave trade in Israel and to stop the revolving door. There are no foreigners here, there are only human beings. This should not be a temporary decision for three months, but a law against the deportation of children."
Shahar Somekh, one of the protest's organizers, said that "Israel's Jewish character will not be harmed if we give these children legal status".
The protestors formed a human chain around the park and carried signs reading, "Every child in Israel is entitled to citizenship". Other signs featured photos of members of the Immigration and Population Administration's Oz Unit arresting foreign workers under the caption "What if it were your child?"
Signs prepared by protestors (Photo: Tal Rabinovsky)
Among the protestors were some of the children who face deportation. "This is my country," said eight-year-old Yael, whose mother, an immigrant from the Philippines, had her work permit revoked as soon as her daughter was born.
"I like Yom Kippur most of all, because then I can ride my bicycle," the girl said.
Earlier this week, following a public outcry, Interior Minister Eli Yishai reversed the controversial Gedera-Hadera initiative, which would have prohibited refugees from living or working in central Israel.