Deportation of foreign workers hits close to home for former Defense Ministry worker
Atomic expert Myra Kaye gave everything to this country, including her only son. Now the same country wants to take away the only people she has left, a family of foreign workers and their daughter whom she has adopted.
I've spoken with this woman fairly often of late, perhaps because she doesn't have many people left to talk with.
She immigrated to Israel from England 57 years ago, at the urging of Prof. Ernst David Bergmann. Her expertise as a nuclear physicist, a graduate of Edinburgh and Cambridge universities, was needed by the man who then headed Israel's Atomic Energy Commission.
She gave up her involvement in Britain's nuclear weapons program, acceded to the professor's pleas and came from afar.
In Israel, she had a wide-ranging career. She spent 20 years in the Defense Ministry, where she founded and headed the department of scientific and technical information. She spent seven months in Paris on a secret mission. Then she was hired by the Israel Institute for Biological Research, where she worked until she retired.
A family tragedy sent her back to work, this time at the Weizmann Institute. But after seven years, she retired again. At that point, she began to write wonderful literature. One of her novellas has been published in English and translated into Hebrew, and even received flattering reviews. From time to time, she also writes newspaper columns.
Her husband Alvin, a professor at Weizmann, spent his life researching hormones. He died six years ago of brain cancer.
My new friend, whose name is Myra Kaye, lives in Rehovot, where I was born. Her only son, David, was killed in a traffic accident during his army service in 1979, when he was coming home from his army base in Sinai. He was 19.
Today, Citizen K. is 87. She is a bereaved mother; she lives alone; she hasn't a single relative in Israel. She is also very ill with an incurable disease. Drugs can ease her physical pain a bit, but they can't ease her emotional agony.
Still, she isn't entirely alone. Suddenly, she acquired a new family, which gives her great joy: A young Filipino, a foreign worker, who nursed her husband for many years, is now caring for her. He has a work permit. But he had the bad luck to fall in love with a Filipina, who was here legally at the time. Her work permit has since expired, but their love has not.
And something else has happened to them: They had a daughter, who is now a year old. Myra is her adopted grandmother, and together, they have formed a new family.
But not for long. Myra, who lost one family, is now about to lose her second and final one: The mother and daughter are due to be deported, leaving Myra alone with her past and her painful present, without a glimmer of happiness in her future.
A few days ago, she wrote to Defense Minister Ehud Barak in an effort to avert the evil decree. She isn't very hopeful. But she told him how much she loves the baby, whom she watches every week, and how much the parting will pain her.
Will the letter reach the minister? Will he read it and respond? Will he agree to telephone his colleague, the interior minister, and plead for Myra and her family? We'll find out soon enough.
"My country took my only son from me," she wrote. "Is it right for it to take my grandchild from me as well? When David was killed, one of his commanders told me: 'We can't compensate you for the loss of your son. But we will try to take care of you as he would have done.' Can you, honorable minister, keep this promise that was made to me?"
"My son," she added, "would never have left me completely alone, without family. Can you, honorable minister, do for me what my son would want to do but cannot? Am I to be sentenced to lose my entire world twice?"
Noting that her caregiver and his wife would like to become Israelis, she wrote, "They would be an asset to the state, as talented, intelligent, skilled, diligent, responsible people who work hard for their living, people with excellent values. When I die, my wonderful caregiver is ready to serve in the army, to contribute his experience to a hospital, a nursing home, a rehabilitation center, or anyplace else where he can be useful."
And she added, as an aside, "It's important to me that you know they speak Hebrew with their daughter; they are raising her only in that [language]." That's the end of her letter.
Myra Kaye has never asked what she can get; all her life, she has given, from the moment she was called to the flag and wrapped herself in it.
Now, for the first time, she is asking, and awaiting a response. In her mind's eye, she can already see the deportation facility at the airport, and the vision keeps her awake at night.
Let her at least sleep in peace, until that moment when her eyes close for the last time.