Shlomo Tzagir, an Israeli, and Suzanne Kapistrano, a Filipina, met and fell in love about 18 months ago. In January 2009, they submitted a request to the Interior Ministry to begin the gradual, five-year process to obtain citizenship for Kapistrano on the basis of their relationship, so that Kapistrano could remain in Israel.
However, the Interior Ministry denied the request, citing doubts about "the sincerity of the relationship."
Moreover, a document obtained by Haaretz reveals that the decision reflects a trend of trying to prevent marriages between Israelis and Filipinas.
"Too many Filipinas are going this road. It must stop and they must be removed from the country," the document states.
Kapistrano, 52, a widow and mother of two, came to Israel in 2001 as a caregiver. In December 2007, her employer died, and she remained in Israel on the same work visa. Six months later, Tzagir's neighbor introduced them.
"After we talked on the phone, we clicked right away," Tzagir said.
"We went together to my daughter's wedding, and the whole family gave their blessing," Tzagir, 67, said.
A month after the couple submitted their request at the Holon branch of the Interior Ministry, they were called in for an interview with a clerk, Rivka Novick. In her report, Novick wrote: "After a short acquaintence, the two moved in together. They went to Eilat and Tiberias together, and based on photos they presented, they attended Shlomo's family events together. Shlomo said he had found the woman he had been seeking, who respects him and listens to his requests. She seemed happy to have found a partner and apparently also a way to stay in Israel."
Novik recommended approving the request, as did her superior, Ephraim Shviro.
However the official in charge of granting visas in Holon - whose name the Interior Ministry declined to confirm - denied the request.
Since Kapistrano's employer died, the official wrote, Kapistrano "has been here without a visa, waiting for a knight so she could get a visa to stay in Israel."
Without meeting the couple, the official concluded that the relationship was "for convenience only." She wrote: "He has someone to take care of him, and she has a way of staying in Israel legally."
"Since she remained in Israel without a visa, and too many Filipinas go this road, it must be stopped and they must be removed from the country. Will this help us?" she wrote.
In March 2009, the Interior Ministry sent the couple a letter, informing them that their request had been denied, and ordered Kapistrano to leave the country within two weeks. An appeal was also denied.
The couple then appealed to the Court for Administrative Matters in Tel Aviv against Interior Minister Eli Yishai.
Ten days ago, the Interior Ministry's enforcement unit arrested Kapistrano. She was released from custody last weekend by order of the Tel Aviv District Court vice president, Judge Esther Covo.
The Interior Ministry said: "The visa department head's stance relates to a phenomenon that the ministry's employees encounter, although every case is specifically examined. This was an internal ministry document, but that does not justify remarks of this type. Either way, since a petition has been submitted, the issue will be resolved in court."