The Caregiver Did Her Bit

Israel ought to behave in a humane fashion toward caregivers who devote their lives to us. Otherwise, where will we hide? In our (and our parents') shame?

The Filipino caregivers perform work that Israelis are unwilling to take on. They take care of our parents' needs, dress them, feed them, take them for walks and bathe them.

Interior Ministry rules stipulate that a foreign worker may remain here for up to five years and three months, unless the worker is a caregiver for a senior citizen, and a special bond has been forged between them. In that case, the residency license can be extended for the duration of the patient's life. How many years does a person have to stay in Israel before he has the right to exist even without the elderly caregivee? The answer is that no length of time is sufficient, not even 40 years. When the elderly person dies, the caregiver can expect to be deported. We bring the caregivers if we like, we throw them out if we like and the family of the caregivee has no say in the matter.

Amon's case is unusual. She did have someone to speak and act on her behalf - Mani's daughter, Moussia Arad, who presides over the Jerusalem District Court. When the Immigration Police chief for Jerusalem, Chief Inspector Yuval Knafo, showed up early on the morning of May 27, accompanied by two police officers, to arrest Amon, she telephoned Arad. Arad explained to Knafo that he was acting in violation of the law, but he was insistent.

According to the police officers, Arad said that from now on she would reject all their warrant applications. According to Arad, she never said that. The police complained to the office of the judicial ombudsman, which ruled that Arad had acted in good faith and that the police officers ought to have complied with the court order. It also ruled that Arad ought to refrain from intervening and placing herself in an awkward situation.

Now that this has been sorted out, the question remains: What precisely does the Immigration Police expect? That the District Court president see the caregiver who had become a member of the family be arrested three times in violation of the law and not become suspicious? The truth is that a foreign worker ought to be assigned to every judge, so the latter can closely monitor the agonizing saga taking place under the auspices of the state.

Former interior minister Ophir Pines-Paz appointed a committee, headed by Prof. Amnon Rubinstein, to set immigration policy for Israel. The committee submitted its report in early 2006. Its recommendations addressed the issue of veteran migrant workers, who "gave Israel their best, put down roots in the country and sometimes even raised their families here. Some have even reached an age at which it will be difficult for them to find employment in their country of citizenship."

The Rubinstein committee concluded, "Expropriating their right to live and work in Israel and deporting them to their country of citizenship might do them an injustice that smacks of exploitation and immorality."

The committee recommended that foreign workers who had legally resided in Israel for at least a decade would be entitled to receive permanent residency status.

But the recommendations of the Rubinstein committee were buried deep in the drawers of the current government, because the lack of an immigration policy is convenient for Israel. In place of a policy, it has a bureaucracy that puts, in all of our names, the foreigners through hell. However, the custom of throwing out caregivers is cruel and unreasonable even by the standards of the Population Administration. Just as Israel was capable of acting humanely toward children who grew up here as Israelis in every way, it ought to behave in a humane fashion toward adults who devoted their lives to us. Otherwise, where will we hide? In our (and our parents') shame?