Israeli Interior Minister Approves Plan to Let Thai Mother of Israeli-born Girl Avoid Deportation

Ayelet Shaked signs off on a plan letting the mother of the seven-year-old return to Thailand to apply to return and live in Israel legally, following protest over decision to deport her

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Kultida Lev and her daughter, Danielle.
Kultida Lev and her daughter, Danielle.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
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Israeli Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked has come to an agreement with the family of a 7-year-old Tel Aviv resident that will head off the deportation of the girl’s mother, a Thai national. Shaked’s plan calls for the girl’s mother to return to Thailand, where she will file a request to return to Israel. The request will be granted within 30 days, thereby allowing her to live in Israel legally.

The mother, Kultida Lev, was married to an Israeli, Shmulik Lev, and was living in Israel when her husband died at the age of 52. The couple, whose daughter, Danielle, was born in Israel, had begun the wife’s naturalization process when he died, Kultida Lev was ultimately ordered deported by Israeli authorities because she was not a citizen and was at that point no longer married to an Israeli.

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The agreement was signed in the presence of the seven-year-old as well as a guardian previously appointed for her. The guardian, David Tadmor, was appointed to ensure that the girl’s own interests were considered in the case.

The Interior Ministry had issued Kultida Lev a deportation order in January 2020, giving her until July of that year to leave to enable Danielle to finish the first grade. But shortly after the deportation order was issued, the coronavirus pandemic erupted, and her mother asked for an extension The Interior Ministry refused, and Kultida Lev remained in the country without permission.

A statement by the interior minister's office called the matter an exceptional case that Shaked had spent considerable time working on: “The minister is pleased that a way has been found that, on one hand, will not create a precedent in other cases and that the ruling will be enforced. And on the other hand, it provides a solution to the tragic story of Danielle Lev and her mother.”

For his part, Tadmor, the girl’s guardian, welcomed the decision, which he said would ensure that Danielle will be able to “grow up securely with her mother in Israel.” He noted that Danielle’s school as well as activists and journalists who publicized her case enabled the matter to be resolved as it was.

Twenty lawmakers urged Shaked earlier this week to reconsider the "cruel and immoral decision," while some 200 students and parents at the girl's school protested last month against the planned deportation.

A statement from the Lev family said it was "overjoyed and emotional … According to the explicit commitment we received from the state, Kultida will receive the status of temporary resident after a month of being outside the country. We deeply thank Minister Shaked and her staff, who shows understanding over the issue, as well as everyone who stood up and volunteered for us. We are counting the minutes until the family reunites and finally gets to enjoy normal lives."

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