JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli court delayed the deportation of a 4-year-old girl born in Israel to a Filipino mother.
The Tel Aviv District Court ordered the stay Tuesday just moments before the girl and her mother were set to board an airplane to the mother’s home country. Also Tuesday, Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wrote a letter to Interior Minister Eli Yishai asking him to halt the deportation.
The court will hold a special hearing Thursday in the case.
The girl’s father, who also is Filipino, has been living in Israel legally for more than a decade with a permit, making his daughter a legal resident of Israel, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. The father requested the stay in part because he was not granted an opportunity to say good-bye properly to his daughter.
The Israeli government says the child did not meet new criteria set out last year, but only enforced from March, to allow her to stay in the country. The criteria includes studying during the past school year in an Israeli state school; being enrolled for the next year in first grade or higher; being born in the country and speaking Hebrew; and residing in the country for five consecutive years.
According to the Interior Ministry, the child was not enrolled in a state preschool or kindergarten last year or for the coming year.
ACRI says the attempted deportation is "the first time in Israel’s history that a child, born and raised in Israel, enrolled in kindergarten in Tel Aviv and integrated into Israel’s public education system has been deported by the Interior Ministry."