Rabbi Eliezer Cruz, age 11, is a fifth-grader at Bialik High School in Tel Aviv. He does his homework in Hebrew, watches Hebrew-language television and, since his school specializes in the children of foreign workers, speaks Hebrew to his friends from Spain, Ghana, France and Russia. Christopher Cruz says he named his son Rabbi Eliezer after one of the heroes in the Second Book of Maccabees, because "I wanted to give him an Israeli name."
One language Rabbi Eliezer does not speak is Tagalog, the native tongue of his Filipino parents. Nevertheless, he and family, along with 35 others, are soon to be deported, because the children do not meet all the legal criteria for residency. They meet most of them: All were born here or have lived here long enough, all speak Hebrew and attend Israeli schools. But in each case, at least one parent entered the country illegally.
After the state set criteria for granting residency to children of foreign workers in 2006, 861 families applied. The Interior Ministry accepted 562 of them, or 65 percent. In total, they number some 2,000 people.
That so many were accepted is because then-interior minister Roni Bar-On treated the criteria very flexibly: For instance, he lowered the minimum age at which a child could obtain residency to four years and nine months. He also promised to be flexible regarding parents who entered illegally. But he moved on to the Finance Ministry, and since then, applications from 58 such families have been rejected. Of these, 46 appealed, and 10 won. The remaining 36 families are slated for deportation.
For the Cruz family, the problem is Rabbi Eliezer's mother, Lorna. She came here in 1996 at the age of 18, which violates The Philippines' law. She therefore used a false identity that gave her age as 25.
The Cruzes petitioned the administrative court in Jerusalem, arguing that deporting Rabbi Eliezer from Israel would cause him severe harm. As Roni Sorek, director of the club he attended last year, wrote in a letter supporting the petition, "Rabbi sees Israel as his sole and future home, and he knows no other place." But last month, despite making it clear that he did not agree with the Interior Ministry's decision, Judge Moshe Sobel ruled that the law did not permit him to intervene.
Today, the Cruzes plan to file an appeal to the Supreme Court, and this appeal will apparently determine the fate of all 36 families.
"Sometimes, I ask him whether he would like to go to The Philippines," Christopher Cruz said of his son. "He responds: 'What do I have there? I've never been there.' To deport Rabbi would be like stopping his life."
The Interior Ministry responded that the Cruzes do not meet the criteria set by the government, which require both parents to have entered the country legally. Moreover, it said, the appeals committee "did not find any special humanitarian reasons for granting them status in Israel."
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