In contemporary Hebrew, a “Filipino” is not a woman who hails from the Philippines, but rather, one who takes care of the elderly and disabled. I already heard someone utter the phrase “my Filipino is Polish.” However, the one who lives with us really is Filipino. Her name is Ninette, just like the popular Israeli singer, but our Ninette does not sing. She speaks softly and infrequently.
Our Ninette is devoted, kind, honest, and wise. We speak in Hebrew and broken English. In Manila, she earned a degree in Management Administration, and even though I have been unable to elicit any word about management theory from her, I know that she plans her family’s life for the very long term.
She is married and a mother of two. Her husband, who stayed in their home country and takes care of the kids with what we refer to as “motherly” devotion works in construction. Her overall salary is $1,100 per month. Half of it is invested in the children’s education. The parents decided to send them to an expensive private school.
I see them through the Internet and Ninette’s laptop. I do not understand their language, but I hear the mother’s and children’s tone of voice. My heart breaks.
Three years have passed since she arrived in Israel. The sum she paid the mediators equals a two-year salary. At fault for this robbery are the authorities that abandon work migrants in the hand of predators. A little more than two years are left before her work permit expires. Her expenses are slim, and therefore I estimate that she will transfer about $25,000 to her family. She believes she’s lucky.
The other day I asked her what she’ll be doing when she returns to her homeland. “I’ll try to complete an MA in Psychology, distinguish myself, and teach at college,” she said. We like to flatter ourselves and say that studies have been the heartfelt aspiration of Jews for generations, yet I’m doubtful whether you will find amongst us a person who scarifies so much in order to acquire education for herself and her children.
I asked Ninette a question that I ask almost any work migrant I encounter: “If you could, would you acquire Israeli citizenship, with all the obligations this entails?” As you can guess, the answer is almost always an excited “yes.” Had we been up to this challenge, Israel would have gained a large group of young and determined immigrants who are both enthusiastic and loyal. This is the typical profile of work migrants everywhere.
People are flexible creatures. They easily get accustomed to foreign cultures and turn into patriots in their adopted country. This will happen to our neutralized work migrants. Within a decade, their children will do a project at school to remind themselves where their parents came from.
However, the soul of the Jews, the most flexible nation in the world, sizzles with racism, which does not allow them to level-headedly consider the immense benefits of work migration. Over the weekend I found two references to it: An immigration policy proposal presented by the Metzilah Center, and another notion addressed in Dan Margalit’s new book.
The Metzilah document’s weakness has to do with the fact that its authors view immigration as danger and almost completely ignore the benefits inherent in it. Meanwhile, Dan Margalit writes that he encourages his many friends to establish a conversion center in “Europe or America” that will absorb no fewer than 100,000 people into the Jewish nation every year. But why do it in a capital located in the northern hemisphere? Is it because of the skin color of potential converts? And besides, why convert immigrants? And if we do convert them, then why should we offer them “expedited conversion?” And if we do go for expedited conversion, why don’t we start with the roughly 700,000 “non-Jewish Russians” and work immigrants that live amidst us?