A student from Germany is set to be deported Friday, after the Interior Ministry determined that she was doing missionary work.
Barbara Ludwig, 32, who has been living mainly in Israel for the past decade, completed her undergraduate degree in philosophy here, and is now working on her master's degree in religious studies at the Hebrew University.
"I was born in Germany, but I found my identity in Israel," Ludwig said.
However, at 6:30 A.M. on April 28, the Immigration Police knocked on her door and took her to Ma'asiyahu Prison in Ramle.
Despite attempts by the Hebrew University's legal department to demand her release so she could finish her studies, the Custody Tribunal at Ma'asiyahu ordered her to leave the country within 30 days.
Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad said Ludwig was being deported because she had not arranged her residency status. However, the head of the Population Administration's central region, Elinor Golan, sent two letters to Ludwig's lawyer stating that Ludwig's repeated requests for residency status had been denied because she was "doing missionary work."
Michael Decker, Ludwig's lawyer, said a hearing held on her case in 2004 in the Interior Ministry was a "humiliating religious interrogation," including asking whether she believed Jesus was the messiah.
Ludwig denied being a missionary, although she admits being in contact with Messianic Jews. "They may have seen me at some meeting of the Messianic Jews," she says. I go around with Jews, with Christians and with Messianics, and I read books about Christianity. So what? That's no a reason to deport me," Ludwig said.
The Interior Ministry insists that Ludwig is not being persecuted for her religious faith.
"The above has been in Israel for five years illegally, and that is the basis for the demand that she leave the country," Interior Ministry spokeswoman Haddad said. "Ms. Ludwig has been asked a number of times to leave the country and arrange her status, but she prefered to ignore the Interior Ministry's requests and continued to break the law.
"In light of the above, we see no fault with the way the issue was handled so far. On the contrary, we are surprised that the lady was a student at an official institution in the state of Israel while defined as an illegal resident," Haddad added.
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