Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Jordanian-Israeli Kafkaesque Chaos

Raeeda, a college graduate, could not find decent employment in Jordan. Using her savings she did what many other Jordanians and the West Bank Arabs do – sneak into Israel for social benefits and free medical care. Using her tourist visa, given freely to Jordanians, she made her way to Tel Aviv’s sprawling Dan suburban region. There she stayed at cheap hotels and worked cleaning houses and stairwells.

Just as she calculated, in a matter of two moths of all work, cheap food and no wasting money on fun, she built up respectable savings. She rented a room in a nice apartment that she shared with legal foreign workers from Romania, Philippines, and Nigeria. One of the workers started taking Raeeda along on jobs to clean luxury penthouses in Tel Aviv’s Ramat Aviv neighborhood.

Eventually her financial situation has improved. She could afford to buy an entertainment center, quality cookware, winter clothes, evening language courses at the Gotham City-like Central Bus Station, and, most importantly, an expensive, six-month extended stay visitor’s visa.

While cleaning one of these penthouses, she had to throw away a pile of junk mail in which she found a collection of CDs. She rescued the CDs. Among the standard fare of mediocre Israeli pop songs, there was a CD produced by Amnon Itzhak, an Israeli charismatic leader specializing in returning the lost back to the Judaism. The CD contained a lecture on basic values of Judaism and character development.

It made sense to the educated Raeeda, and soon she started attending a women's circle at her neighborhood synagogue. The unsuspecting women, convinced by her classic, genuine Semitic speaking style, and impressed with her polished manners, readily accepted Raeeda.

The women soon persuaded the single Raeeda to think about getting married. She agreed to a series of blind dates, one of which eventually made her fall in love and proposed marriage. She confessed to the man that she was an Arab, and is working illegally in Israel. That turned out to be no obstacle, and she quickly became a happy wife.

Meanwhile, the government had instituted a policy under which Raeeda was denied citizenship to which, she assumed, she was entitled having married an Israeli. The act of applying for the citizenship itself had triggered the bureaucratic machine to terminate her comfortable status as a visitor and to order her to leave the country.

Just as she and her husband started an appeal process, they realized they were expecting a baby.

Meanwhile, she started attending classes for potential converts into Judaism. Being very spiritual and studious helped her pass the stringent oral test, known for being administered by the pedantic Ashkenazi rabbis. She proudly joined the women’s league at the synagogue. One woman’s husband, a lawyer, realizing that Raeeda was entitled to an unconditional citizenship, started legal papers on her behalf. In another couple of weeks she gave birth to a boy.

The clouds hung on the threshold. A mere month after the birth of their baby, Raeeda’s husband was killed in one of the terrorist bombings in Tel Aviv. Raeeda was still a visitor and a widow. According to the socialist policies of the Israeli government, regardless of her religious status as a Jew, she was still regarded as an Arab, and, as in all matters Arab, must be taken care of by Arab social workers.

To complicate the hardship, the government, then just having gotten rid itself of the religious factions, informed her that despite her religious status she must leave Israel, or be deported to Jordan.

The social workers assigned to her case informed her that her baby was considered to be Arab, and, since she had no income, the baby could be handed over to an Arab foster parents.

While still grieving for her husband, she had to open the door to the prospective foster parents with the social workers in tow. Pointedly speaking Arabic, the hopeful foster parents informed everyone of their impatience for the paperwork to go through and to receive the baby so that they “could raise him as a shaheed, who by sacrificing his life would atone for the transgression she committed by marrying a Jew.”

Raeeda promptly picked up and left the city to settle in an undisclosed location where she was helped by the religious community to assume a new identity. The social workers, the foster parents and the Arab media meanwhile have launched a search for the woman, and, most importantly, for her Arab son.

Eventually, the crusade to reclaim the boy to the Arab fold became cynical when it received direction from the administrator of a prominent Arabic school that is famous for having among its alumni the Jordanian youth who blew himself up in Jerusalem's Sbarro pizza shop.

The whereabouts of Raeeda and her son are unknown; the anti-religious Israeli government is still functioning along its usual Orwellian guidelines while looking over its shoulder at the anti-Israeli Arab members of its own Knesset; the Arab world has since spun stories accusing Israel of trading in Arab babies; and the latest news, according to News, is that the Kafkaesque authorities have given Raeeda the long-awaited Israeli citizenship though they are still bent on taking away her son.

by permission from a Tefillon blog

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