Patrick attends a public kindergarten in South Tel Aviv, the city of his birth. A lively, curious child, he speaks fluent Hebrew and looks forward to celebrating the Jewish festivals.
When asked about Hanukkah, he explains that he loves eating sufganiot (jam doughnuts) and dons a kippa to recite the blessing for lighting the Hanukkah candles that he has learned at kindergarten. "We are having a huge party for Hanukkah at gan (kindergarten)," he said, "There will be lots of sufganiot there."
Patrick and his mother Tina light Hanukkah candles, rehearsing for the Israeli-born boy's kindergarten party.
Hanukkah was a triple celebration for Patrick – he was marking his fifth birthday, the Festival of Lights, and a ruling in November by the Tel Aviv District Court preventing the deportation of Patrick and 11 other children of foreign workers who are all around the same age. The ruling followed a petition by veteran NIF grantee Hotline for Migrant Workers.
His mother Tina, a Filipina who has been working in Tel Aviv as a cleaner since 2004 said, “It was the happiest day of my life when I heard the court rule that my son could not be expelled from Israel."
She added, “For the past few months, we have been scared every time there is a knock on the door that the immigration police have come to deport us to the Philippines.”
Her son Patrick, who turned five on the fifth day of Hanukkah, was born in Israel but was denied Israeli residency by a recent government decision. The decision granted residency rights only to the 800 children of migrant workers who were born in Israel and have spent five consecutive years in the country. Patrick, who was only four years and eight months old at the time, did not qualify.
In issuing the temporary injunction, Judge Kobi Vardi of the Tel Aviv District Court said that the status of each of the 12 children must be determined on an individual basis by the court.
Hotline for Migrant Workers attorney Osnat Cohen Lipschitz said, “We are delighted by the court’s decision, which will enable it to consider the case of each child. The government claimed keeping these children in Israel was harming the public interest. It is not clear how keeping 12 Israeli-born children in the country endangers the public interest.”
Patrick and Tina outside their home in Tel Aviv.
Tina, a single mother, said, “When we first heard that Patrick and I were to be expelled because he was a few months short of the government criteria we felt so frustrated. All Israelis we meet are so friendly towards us, and my employers are especially kind, so we could not understand why the Ministry wanted us kicked out.”
She added, "For this reason, the goodwill we feel from most Israelis, I am confident that the courts will eventually decide that Patrick can stay. Israel is the only home he has ever known."