I Was Born in Thailand, but Israel Is My Home

Kultida Lev
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A protest against the deportation of Danielle Lev.
A protest against the deportation of Danielle Lev.Credit: Moti Milrod
Kultida Lev

My name is Kultida. I was born in Thailand, and when I was a little girl I dreamed of being a nurse. The years passed, I enrolled in a nursing school in Bangkok, and during the summer I worked in a pharmacy. One day an Israeli man came in, looking for medicine. That’s how I met Shmulik Lev. The connection between us was immediate. We talked, met and fell in love.

Shmulik and I decided to marry and to live together in Israel. Those were happy days. Our daughter was born, Danielle Lev. We were so happy when Danielle was born, the fruit of our love. We chose a name for her that symbolized the connection between us: “Da” from Kultida and “el” from Shmuel. Finally, Shmulik’s dream came true: He had a daughter. The Lev family was complete.

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But then, on one terrible day, this heart was broken. Shmulik had a heart attack and died, and I was left without him, with our daughter, little Danielle, who was still a baby. For a long time, I was unable to believe that this was reality, that this was my life now – and that our sweet Danielle would never again feel her father’s embrace. Shmulik was gone.

But we did not remain alone. The Lev family, our family, was always there for us. They helped me stand on my own two feet again and encouraged me to be strong for Danielle. I learned from them how to live my life here in Israel, how to raise an Israeli girl. Asaf, Danielle’s cousin, is always at her side – her best friend in the world.

Kultida and Danielle.Credit: Gilad Lev

And then, precisely when I had finally begun to rebuild my life and to deal with this terrible loss, another disaster befell us. During one of my regular visits to the Interior Ministry, I was given a letter telling me that I was to be deported from Israel. The letter said that the decision could be appealed, and I did so. But the Interior Ministry refused to change its position. That’s it, the decision is final.

Final? My heart cannot accept it: I have no home in the world but the homeland of my husband, of blessed memory. But I’m not talking about my own heart. I want to know: What about my daughter? Danielle was born in Israel. She grew up in Israel. Her family is here, her school and her friends are here. This is where she learned to speak Hebrew, to read and write in Hebrew, to sing Hanukkah songs in Hebrew. And only here is she loved so much.

We feel this love now. I cry every time I think about it. The strong embrace of the family, who will do anything for us. Danielle’s friends, small children who draw signs and march in the streets. They will not allow their friend to be taken from her home. And along with them, parents, neighbors and people I have seen only on television, and so many people I have never seen.

Sometimes Danielle tells me: I want to meet Daddy. Lately, it has happened more and more. Maybe she needs him now more than ever, maybe she really does understand. If Shmulik were alive today, none of this would have happened. If Daddy were here he would explain to the Interior Ministry that it is impossible to take her away – because she is her father’s Danielle Lev. My Danielle Lev.