Will Herzliya Be Deported From Tel Aviv to the Philippines?

On October 30 Herzliya Kines will be six years old. She is a first grade pupil in the Gavrieli school in Tel Aviv and knows how to write "horse" and "bull" in Hebrew. She also knows how to spell Herzliya. However, it is doubtful whether she knows that she could be deported from Israel for her birthday this year.

Her name is really Herzl, but the kindergarten teacher explained to her parents that Herzliya was better, because Herzl was a boy's name. Since then Herzliya gets angry whenever anyone calls her Herzl.

Her friends at school are Shaked, Keren and Yam.

Herzliya, daughter of two Philippino parents fulfills almost all the criteria required for naturalization in Israel. Her parents came to the country legally, she was born here, never left the country, goes to first grade and speaks Hebrew. Had she only been born four and a half months earlier, she would have had no problem receiving residency status. But the government has decided to naturalize only foreign workers' children who were six years old on June 18, 2006.

Since Herzliya was born in October, the family's request to stay here was denied. This week Herzliya's parents - Benedicto Kines, 31, and Emilin Pakon, 40 - received the denial notice from the Interior Ministry.

If the family's appeal is rejected, they will be deported from Israel.

When the government decided to naturalize foreign laborers' children it was clear that the border cases would be the most complicated ones. Herzliya's mother has a friend whose son is six years and eight months old. He is in the same class as Herzliya, but he may stay in Israel, while she may not.

The Interior Ministry said yesterday that it had set up a committee for special cases to examine appeals like this one.

Herzliyas' parents, both Catholic, came legally to Israel as caregivers to the elderly. Then, as the years passed, their permits lapsed and now they clean houses. They met in Israel in 1998, in Herzliya, and live Tel Aviv in a one room apartment, most of whose space is taken up by a double bed, Herzliya's bed, a table and refrigerator.

On the cupboard hangs a calendar and photographs of the girl dressed up as Mikey Mouse in Purim. When she was younger she dressed up as Cinderella. On Alon's birthday she was photographed in Gan Meir with Efrat and Tal, "my two friends." They all held bags of candy, but Herzliya said "I don't like sweets. I don't like chocolate or lollipops or toffee. I only love ice cream."

"She speaks mainly Hebrew. She does not speak Tagalog (the official language of the Philippines) well," says Emileen Pakon. "When we told her we might be going to the Philippines, she stamped her feet and said she didn't want to."

Benedicto Kines says they will fight as hard as they can because their daughter's future is at stake. If their appeal is rejected they will go to court, and if it rejects their appeal they will go the Supreme Court.

Herzliya's attorney Sagiv Rotenberg will submit her appeal to the Interior Ministry next week. He will argue it is not possible to discriminate between first grade children only because some of them were born a few months after the others. He will say that the main consideration should be integration in Israeli society, and Herzliya is every bit as integrated as her first grade colleagues.

There are many foreign workers' children in the Bialik-Rogozin school in South Tel Aviv. Campus manager Karen Tal believes that the smaller children will soon begin to receive denials for their naturalization requests. "The discrimination is tearing us apart," she says.

She hopes the committee for special cases will be open to humanitarian considerations. The Interior Ministry's Population Administration spokeswoman Sabin Hadad commented that the first answer to the foreign laborers' children is given "strictly according to the criteria." However, she adds that "the administration is preparing to deal with borderline and special cases as well."

Each family whose application is denied is told it has a right to apply to the special cases' committee. If the Kines family appeals, its case will be brought before the committee, she says. So far 153 requests have been approved, 122 have been denied and 32 appeals have been submitted.