Noah Mae (second from left) and her friends are not Jewish either, though they were born in Israel and have lived there all their lives:
Noah Mae speaks and dreams in Hebrew. She is one of the more than 1,000 children of migrant workers who are scheduled for deportation this year.
The eight-year-old was born to Filipino migrant workers. Israel increased the number of work permits for Southeast Asian workers, to replace Palestinian workers. Many Filipinos work as caregivers for the elderly, but are officially barred from caring for their own family. According to Rotem Ilan, founder of Israeli Children, an NGO campaigning against the deportation of migrant children:
It’s written as a regulation that migrant workers cannot be in relationships…They’re not allowed to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, and they cannot come with their spouses or bring their children. If they have children, they need to send them to the Philippines or bring them in person and after three months they can return to work.
The official reason is that migrant workers are in Israel to work, and not to be distracted by their familial concerns.
For 20 years Israeli governments have turned a blind eye to these children. They are now part of the fabric of this country. They go to school here. They celebrate the same holidays as us. If there is something we [Jews] have learned from our history is that you must not, you cannot deport children.
How would Noah Mae feel if she was sent away? “Bad,” she says. “I love Israel.”