Tel Aviv School Protests Planned Deportations of Filipino Classmates

Some 600 teachers, students from Gymnasia Herzliya demonstrate for targeted students

Israeli students hold a sign quoting a biblical verse, 'you shall love [the stranger] as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt,' in Tel Aviv on June 17, 2019.
Ilan Assayag

Some 600 students and teachers demonstrated in Tel Aviv on Monday against the planned deportation of fellow students whose parents are from the Philippines.

The protesters marched from their school, Gymnasia Herzliya, to the Tel Aviv Museum carrying signs such as “Summer vacation without friends,” “I was born here” and “Love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Principal Zeev Dagani demonstrated with them.

Two seventh-graders from the school have received deportation notices for mid-July, and other students will likely face deportation as well. All were born in Israel, and most speak nothing but Hebrew.

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“I’m an Israeli boy,” said John, one of the students facing deportation. “I don’t know any other country besides Israel, which I love.

“I was born here, and I want to continue living here in Israel, because this is my country,” he added. “I want to continue studying and go to university and learn lots of stuff I don’t know and realize my dreams.”

Students hold up signs of support for their Filipino classmates, June 17, 2019.
\ Ilan Assayag

Both of the students who received deportation notices are in teacher Daniel Levy’s class. “They were born here; they’re Israeli in every respect,” he said. “They study in an Israeli school, go to the Scouts and extracurricular activities, speak Hebrew. Israel is all they know. It’s their place, their home. Every child born in Israel has a right to live here, to finish 12 years of school.”

In both 2006 and 2010, public pressure forced the government to let other families of migrant workers remain here, though by law, they could have been deported. Those children received permanent residency when they turned 18.

Levy said the same should be done this time. “The law is the law, but there are still exceptions,” he said. “And this is that case. They’re children.”

Dagani said the teachers and students were demonstrating out of solidarity with the students facing deportation. “We’re too disappointed, angry and frustrated for words,” he said. “We’ll fight the deportation with all our might.”

“There’s only one difference between me and those students – that they’re living under constant fear of being pulled up by the roots,” one seventh-grade girl said. “This is the time to stop the deportation and fight for the rights and the humanity that still remain to us. Only after it reached kids from our class did we understand how difficult it was and how much we need to stop this ugly action. We’re taking someone’s identity and throwing it in the trash.”

The Population, Immigration and Border Authority plans to deport around 100 Filipina workers and their Israeli-born children this summer. The women all came here to work legally, and under a High Court of Justice ruling from 2011, foreign workers who give birth while working here can remain with their children until their visas expire. Because they had given birth, their visas weren’t renewed. But for years, they also weren’t deported.

“These are foreign nationals who have stayed in Israel for a very long time in defiance of all law and without any legal status,” the authority said.

Altogether, 1,478 children of Filipina workers are currently enrolled in Israeli schools.