Care for the care-givers

In pleasant weather, I walk from my home a short distance to Rishon Lezion’s historic municipal park, created in 1882. I take my morning newspaper and find a bench on which to sit and read.

I am surrounded by cats. 25 to 30 cats of all colors walk on the grass and sometimes jump up on a bench. They are fed crusts of bread and perhaps bits of meat by the many babushka ladies… the old Russian women who rock the carriages of babies and who make themselves the guardians of the cats.

In the central park adorned by the avenue of palm trees, I frequently see elderly men and women in wheelchairs attended by their care-givers, all of whom are Filipinos.

It warms the heart to witness their devotion to those whom they care for, feeding them, wiping their hands and faces, combing their hair and attending to their charges with the love that a child gives to parents.

The Filipino care-givers have been in Israel for many years. Many of them have expired visas. And most of the younger care-givers have children who were born in Israel, usually by Israeli fathers.

Filipinos are generally soft-spoken people who chatter with one another in the Tagalog language. Their children speak only Hebrew and attend school in Israeli neighborhoods close to their living quarters.

There has been no crimes committed by Filipinos. They are observant of laws and customs with the one exception of failure to re-apply for their visas when the current ones expire. By Israeli law this makes them illegal.

Anyone who knows the Filipino care-givers knows fully well how devoted and dedicated they are to those for whom they give loving care.

Recently, our government has decided to follow the American president’s policy of deporting Mexicans who have over-stayed their visa, often separating children from their parents. Filipinos have been notified that they and their children must leave Israel and return to the Philippines.

The tragedy of this policy is that the Filipino children are all born in Israel. They speak only Hebrew, not Tagalog. They have never been to their parents’ native country and they have no friends in the country which they have never known. All of those children are 100% sabras, native born Israelis.

Our government, lacking compassion by enforcing a cruel law, seems to me to be the height of shame and disgrace.

Who will replace them as care-givers? Not Israelis for sure. They don’t like to change soiled diapers of the ill and elderly. They have little patience and speak to the old and disabled people in sharp voices.

When a patient asks a question of them and repeats the question a few minutes later because they have difficulty in remembering the answers, the non-Filipino care-givers reply crudely. “I just told you a few minutes ago. Why weren’t you listening to me? Why do I have to repeat things to you so many times?”

The government’s deportation orders are a disgrace. Happily, some Israeli families take pity on the Filipino care-givers and offer them shelter and protection in their homes in an effort to hide them and their children from the police who come with deportation orders.

It is an additional pity for the young children. They cannot attend classes in their schools and cannot freely play outside for fear of being recognized.

Rachmanut is a traditional Hebrew word to describe the Jewish practice of showing mercy and compassion among the less fortunate among us.

Our government should be ashamed at the mal-treatment being given to devoted care-givers who have spent several years in our country providing loving care for the elderly and disabled Israeli Jews.

And how do we reward them? By seeking them, arresting them and deporting them.

Israeli citizens should raise their voices in protest of this cruel policy.

It is time now for all of us to care for the care-givers. That is the Jewish way. And it should be the Israeli way.

I look forward to seeing more Filipino care-givers whenever I find my bench in the central park surrounded by cats and Russian grandmothers.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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