Jerusalem, Sep 27, 2019 / 07:30 am
There are no tourists in Jerusalem's Talbieh neighborhood. And even locals don't always notice the Capuchin Franciscans coming and going from a non-descript three-house compound in the neighborhood. It does not stand out. But for many of those who know it, the St. Rachel Center is an indispensable refuge and a source of grace.
The St. Rachel Center serves a kind of immigrant unique to Israel: those born in the country, but living there illegally.
The strong economy in Israel is a magnet for many immigrants, mostly women, from places like the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India and Eritrea, who find jobs as housekeepers, caretakers of the elderly, or as maids in hotels. But the state of Israel admits those immigrants only under very strict rules: they cannot bring family members, and they have to commit to not get married or have children in Israel. Violating any of those terms would immediately void their visas and would make them eligible for deportation.
But life happens. And immigrant women who get pregnant sometimes opt to remain illegally in the country, knowing that their children, ineligible for Israeli citizenship, will live in a legal limbo.