Ethiopian Wife May Be Deported Because Husband Suffered Stroke

Non-Jewish woman immigrated with Jewish husband in 1991 and never received citizenship.

In 19 days Baza Almash will be deported to Ethiopia, because her husband has been in a nursing home, immobilized by a stroke, and the couple is no longer living as man and wife.

Almash, 32, is not Jewish. Her husband of 10 years, Mogus Adeniya, immigrated to Israel in 1991. He would fly to Ethiopia every few months to see her. Their daughter, Rahel, was born five years ago. Shortly afterward, in 2006, Almash immigrated to Israel, where she was given a temporary visa.

The family lived together in Netivot. About six months ago Almash began studying to convert to Judaism, in order to obtain Israeli citizenship.

About a year after her arrival, however, Adeniya, who is about 30 years her senior, had a stroke that left him paralyzed below the waist and unable to walk or to take care of himself. Almash cared for him, but he eventually was admitted to a nursing home in Ashkelon.

About two weeks ago, Almash received an urgent summons to report to the Be'er Sheva branch of the Population Registry, where she was handed a letter giving her 30 days to leave the country. The letter said that an agency committee had rejected her request to become a naturalized Israeli citizen because her husband had been in an institution since the beginning of the naturalization process, and "you are not living together and managing a common household."

Almash tearfully told a reporter, "I haven't slept since, the fear of deportation has paralyzed me, I don't know what to do; I came with my husband, who was like a father to me, to Israel, and now they want to deport me because he is institutionalized."

She says that her daughter is completely Israeli: "Do they want me to return her to Ethiopia? What will we do there? Our whole life is in Israel."

Almash works two hours a days as a cleaner at a Netivot community center, and gets by with help from the city welfare department.

The Interior Ministry said in response: "Mrs. Almash submitted a naturalization application based on her being the spouse of an Israeli citizen. Shortly thereafter the citizen was admitted to a medical institution, and for the past three years they have not lived as a couple. In light of the tragic circumstances, however, the naturalization process was not halted immediately, but only two years later. When it became clear that the process had been suspended, Mrs. Almash lost her standing and she was recently asked to leave the country. However, the head of the Population Registry, Mr. Amnon Ben Ami, has asked to review her case as early as tomorrow."