The Israeli Farher David Neuhaus writes to the Minister of the Interior in defence of 14 Filipino teenagers about to be deported. And he reminds him of the debt of gratitude of the Jews towards the Philippines.
(g.s.) – “Out of respect for our history, we cannot deport these 14 youngsters and their families.” This is, in short, the warning that the Jesuit Father David Neuhaus is giving the Israeli Minister of the Interior, Arych Machluf Deri in an open letter published in the Hebrew edition of the newspaper Haaretz on 9th February and now published again, in other languages, on the institutional site of the Latin Patriarchy of Jerusalem.
The 14 teenagers Neuhaus is defending were born in Israel to Filipino parents who for years have been in Israel as foreign workers, mostly employed by families as caregivers or domestic helpers (mainly women). The youngsters have grown up here, speak Hebrew like their schoolmates and consider themselves an integral part of Israeli society. For the authorities, however, it is not like that and they refuse to recognize their right of permanent residence and are about to send them to the Philippines, their parents’ country.
Father Neuhaus – in his capacity as vicar of Hebrew-speaking Catholics and responsible in the Diocese for the pastoral of immigrants, but also as an Israeli citizen of Jewish origin – is sensitive to their fate and has taken on their defence based on a historical fact of last century.
Whilst the Nazi-Fascist persecutions were raging in Europe and the Jews were being stripped of their property, work, right to study, citizenship and finally of life itself in the concentration camps, the (Catholic) President of the Philippines, Manuel Luis Quezón offered to fleeing European Jews his country as a safe haven: 1,302 people were welcomed, although the Filipino politician had intended to welcome far more.
The story is told in the documentary An Open Door made a few years ago by the director Noel Izon, himself Filipino. It was that film that allowed Neuhaus to discover, a few weeks ago, the story of the Jewish refugees grateful to President Quezón. This is why he advises the Minister Deri to see it as well, to whom he writes: “Elderly men and women, often moved to tears, speak of those years, when still children, they lived in a safe haven far from the hell of Europe at war. An elderly Jew says, “Not only do I keep my Filipino passport, but I insisted that ,y children renew their Filipino passports: this land was not my motherland, but my adoptive land.”
The open letter to the Israeli politician continues: “You have decided that for these 14 teenagers there is no place in the State of Israel. These youngsters were all born here, speak almost only Hebrew, see this country as their home and have a dream here; to build their homes here, to contribute to the development and the prosperity of our country. I add: they are all Filipinos. The generation of their grandparents opened the doors of the Philippines to the Jews. To save them from the Shoah. Their parents came here to look after our elderly, disabled and ill and they do so every day with dedication and love (…) I am sure that remembering the past, we are able to open our hearts and our minds to realize that deporting these children, or any child of immigrant Filipino workers, makes us commit a cruel and inhuman act which betrays a memory of kindness and generosity.”
Click here to watch an extended trailer, posted on YouTube, of the documentary An Open Door.
Click here for an article on the presence of foreign workers in the Christian community in Israel.
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