German family fights to stay in Israel
Dr. Andreas Kling came to Jewish state six years ago with a vision of boosting country's economy, global image. His three children were all born in Israel, but now face deportation after his work permit has expired. 'It's not the Israel I know and love,' he says
For several weeks now, five-year-old Jonathan has been waiting for the court to discuss his case but has no idea why. His father, Dr. Andreas Kling, has not told him he faces deportation together with his parents and two little sisters.
"I will hide what's going on around him for as long as I can," he says. Andreas immigrated to Israel with his wife Angelina six years ago. "I don’t want him to feel like a criminal. He loves Israel."
Unlike work migrant families one often hears about, the Klings didn't come to Israel over financial difficulties. Dr. Kling, 47, is the director of the IBR Institute of international Business Relations – an extension of Berlin's Steinbeis University.
He came to Israel in order to set up a MBA school for marketing students from developing countries such as India, the Ukraine and Namibia who come to Israel for two-week seminaries on Israeli economy. His request to extend his work permit has been rejected.
His profound love of Israel prevents Kling from telling his relatives and friends abroad of his impending deportation. "I'm afraid people in Germany will get the wrong idea about Israel," he says. "The word deportation will immediately conjure up images of the deportation of Jews during the Holocaust. I remember Ehud Barak once said that should the deportation of foreign workers' kids be reported by the New York Times or Washington Post it will be the worst thing for Israel's image."
Andreas Kling grew up in a family where Jews and Israel were always talked about. In the beginning of the 1930s, his grandmother told her Jewish friends they must leave Germany. "She felt the situation was on the verge of deteriorating but they thought she was mad," he says. "She later saw them expelled to the east on train wagons. These are the images my mother remembers from her childhood, so Israel has been in the backdrop from a very early age. My grandmother used to tell me about Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir and the State of Israel and this obviously had an impact on me."
In high school, Andreas chose Meir as the subject of his portrait for a class assignment. "I was reading her book at the time and was riveted," he smiles. "This may have been the moment which led to my coming here."
'There's a lot of openness and love in Israel' (Photo: Doron Golan)
The original thought behind his MBA school was to encourage Israeli students to explore other markets around the world. "But the better acquainted I got with Israel, I realized Israel was a fascinating test case which could be marketed abroad. You have no natural resources, but you do have brains. You open many new businesses, incorporate people from other countries and become a melting pot – and that's when creativity emerges."
Andreas's wife Angelina, 41, admits that the decision to immigrate to Israel was not an easy one. "But I knew there was a massive difference between what one sees in the media about Israel and what's really going on," she laughs. "Ultimately I realized this was the place for me. I fall in love with Israel more and more with each passing year and when I think about returning to Germany I get sad. There's a lot of openness and love here that is lacking there."
Andreas adds: "When our students return to their countries they become goodwill ambassadors. After a week in Israel they feel they must return, that there's something of value here."
The Klings have three children – all born in Israel – Jonathan, 5; Rene, 3; and 1-year-old Eliana. Asked whether the children feel more German or Israeli, Angelina replies: "Both, I think. They're not entirely Israeli, but they're not German either. At home we speak German and try to practice German customs, but we also celebrate the Jewish holidays and teach them how to sing songs in Hebrew. They have a double life."
Doesn't this confuse them?
"No, but they do ask a lot of questions. For instance, 'Why are we German?', 'Why do we speak German at home?' and 'Why doesn’t anyone understand this language?' I explain to them that we live here because their father works in Israel."
"Last independence day, Jonathan waved the Israeli flag and sang 'I'm an Israeli' and 'My flag is blue and white' at the top of his lungs," Andreas says. "It’s who he is today. They don't even know what the German flag looks like. To them Israel is home. They have friends and roots here."
Kling's wish is that the school he set up will help the State of Israel. During seminars held in the templar house the family bought in Haifa, foreign students are asked to create a campaign which will boost tourism from their own countries to Israel. "If Israel has the good sense to use these campaigns, the economy here can be amazingly leveraged," he says. "The foreign students know their own countries and their residents' needs very well. We have yet to score a meeting at the Tourism Ministry but we might manage to use our achievements for Israel's benefit in the future."
The Foreign Ministry, however has expressed interest in the program. David Saranga, an official at the ministry and former Consul for Media and Public Affairs in the US presented the program in one of the school's seminaries. The Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry also expressed interest and presented the students with Israel's economy, competitive advantages and business market.
But this was not enough for the Interior Ministry. Last year, Dr. Kling's work permit expired and he is currently residing in Israel on a tourist's visa.
"Every few weeks I travel abroad to bring students to Israel and I'm scared of landing in Israel at night or over the weekend when my lawyer might not be available, for fear that the border control will make it hard for me to enter Israel."
"As Dr. Kling is considered a foreign expert worker he can have his visa extended because he's promoting Israel's financial interests. This is subject to the approval of the interior minister, the industry, trade and labor minister and finance minister, but there is no clear protocol on the matter," Attorney Michael Decker who represents Kling says.
Kling approached the Interior Ministry following media reports regarding the government's decision to grant resident status to migrant workers' families whose children meet certain criteria. His request was denied and the family was subsequently ordered to leave the country within 30 days, without the option of bringing the matter up with the appeals committee. Two months ago, the Tel Aviv District Court issued an interim order forbidding the family's deportation until a verdict is given on their case.
"Mr. Andreas Kling has completed the allotted work period in accordance with the Entry Into Israel Law in 2010," Population, Immigration and Border Authority spokesperson Sabin Hadad said in response. "In August 2010, the family filed a request for residential status. The request was denied as the applicants did not meet the requirements. "
'Not the Israel we know'
"When we first got here I never imagined I'd have to fight the government. The State welcomed us with open arms, and it's very frustrating to suddenly be faced with the Interior Ministry's coldness. It’s not the State of Israel we know."
Would you like to return to Germany one day?
"Not right now. The population there is aging. We’re considered unusual because the average number of children per family is less than one. I see only elderly people at the Frankfurt airport whereas in Tel Aviv you see children running happily around. It’s the meaning of life. That's why we feel at home here. Family comes first in Israel. In Germany, people would rather spend their money on three annual vacations and a Mercedes.
"Yesterday we went to the Hermon because the kids have never seen snow. It was amazing to us to discover all the families there, the children playing with their parents. We felt like one big family. It was wonderful. "
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