Last month Anna Jagnos-Paliashkon, 80, petitioned the High Court of Justice to protect what is left of her family. Jagnos, a Holocaust survivor, immigrated to Israel five years ago with her family from the Ukrainian city of Simferopol.

Her husband is in a geriatric hospital. Her daughter died of cancer a year ago. She herself underwent open-heart surgery last July. And now the Interior Ministry wants to deport her son-in-law, Sergei Dzhedan, who takes care of her, because his wife died before he completed the naturalization process.

The petition by Jagnos and Dzhedan, both Be'er Sheva residents, was filed by attorney Sarah Lewis of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the Reform Movement's legal arm.

In a letter attached to the petition, members of Jagnos' golden agers club wrote: "Anna has been left completely alone. This whole time her son-in-law has been by her side, helping her wholeheartedly, supporting and treating her like his mother. We are impressed by the way he treats his wife's parents and ask that consideration be shown for these lonely people."

Normally, it is non-Jewish widows of Israeli husbands whom the Interior Ministry seeks to deport. Dzhedan is evidently the only widower who has petitioned the High Court against his deportation. He worked as a ship's helmsman in Ukraine. In 1999 he met Irina Kryakin, Jagnos' daughter, who was an Israeli citizen.

Kryakin returned to Israel in 2002, followed by her husband and parents. They all shared an apartment. Dzhedan found steady work as an electrician on projects throughout Israel.

In Israel, Dzhedan discovered that his wife had cancer, which he says she hid from him until she began receiving chemotherapy. Kryakin died in December 2006.

Dzhedan completed more than four years of the naturalization process. Nonetheless, the Interior Ministry refuses to grant him citizenship.

Dzhedan's petition joins more than 10 others IRAC has filed on behalf of non-Jewish widows threatened with deportation. Under pressure from the court, the Interior Ministry published in the summer of 2006 a regulation on granting legal status to widows, but it hardly obligates the ministry.

Under this regulation, widows with children are referred to the inter-ministry committee for humanitarian cases only after they have completed at least half of the naturalization process. Thus it is possible that widows with babies who are Israeli citizens could be deported with their children. Childless widows are referred after completing three years of the process. The committee is under no obligation to grant the widows legal status.

Dzhedan completed four years and two months of the naturalization process. His application was discussed by the committee and rejected last August. Lewis claims this raises the concern that the Interior Ministry's regulation was really formulated just for show in court, "without any serious intention of implementing it."

Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Hadad claims that Dzhedan completed less than three years of the naturalization process, and therefore does not meet the necessary criteria.

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