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"This is Israel babe, get used to them (OZ unit)"

"This is Israel babe, get used to them (OZ unit)"

I would like to use the word “terrorist” instead of “bane” to describe the role of the OZ unit in the life of migrant worker but I know the word “terrorist” is a too strong word to use in this land where bombs/bomb shelters are as common as the food Falafel so I will settle for bane which means to bring misery. But I do feel frightened whenever I meet an OZ agent. Can you blame me? Today I was walking peacefully to the supermarket to buy mangoes, less than ten minutes away from my employers house and this civilian guy coming from the opposite direction, suddenly stops in front me and said “May I see your passport?” I was jerk out of my salivating imagination of the mangoes. I'm going to assume he took hold of my arm because he thought I might run. I hurriedly produced my passport and too tongue-tied to ask for his ID if he is really an OZ agent. I learned the hard way that I should always, always bring my passport everywhere. He riffled through the pages, talked on the phone, gave back my passport, went on his way and all this happened in a minute. I was left standing on the sidewalk with no more appetite for mangoes. I said to myself “Ok, this is Israel, babe! Get used to it” but still, my heartbeat was running a mile. With the immigration people, anything is just possible.

This was not the first time I saw the OZ unit operating and I had already run into the OZ unit more than I want to remember. I usually go the other way even if it will take twice the time if I hear that there is immigration checking but they seem to find me. The first encounter occurred when I was still a month here in Israel, ignorant of the way things are run here, alone and still finding my feet in a strange land. Exactly one month after I arrived, my employer died. I had no choice but to go home to my flat and look for another job. Because it was the middle of the week, I was alone. Early evening I went out to throw the garbage which is a few steps away from the main door of the building. Immediately two men were on either side of me and took hold of my arm. What do you expect? I panicked! I thought the family of the old lady charged me for her death! One man said in Hebrew “Where is your passport?” but my mind was numb with the thought “Oh my God, Oh my God, I'm going to jail!” and everything just blanked.

Of course, I didn't understand a word of what he was saying until they started to drag me and oh praise God, I woke up and said “Wait! Wait! What?!” The guy looked surprised and asked again in English “where is your passport?” I might have screamed “I have it inside!” and they started to interrogate me asking what is the number of my passport which I don't know, how many years I am in Israel and who is my employer. Since I did not have with me my passport, I had to bring them inside the building and into my apartment. I produced my passport, one perused it very well while the other went to open the cupboards, look under the bed, and open the other rooms, everywhere. I just stand numbly on the open door ready to bolt while they check thoroughly like they were looking for spiders. After what I felt a long time, they were satisfied there were no spiders and left. I was left trembling from the aftermath.

There was this time also that I spend the night with a friend on their flat to celebrate her birthday. The party was flowing with food and wine and we went to bed very late and tipsy. Suddenly there was a loud pounding on the door which no one bothered to answer, thinking it must be some crazy nut because it past three in the early morning. Suddenly the pounding changed into some powerful thuds that mean the door was being kicked open. We were all dazedly looking at each other and one went to the door and asked “Mi Ze?” It's a raid! She ran back to whisper it's the immigration and to pound on the other room's door while the main door was being kicked again so she ran back to shout that she will open the door, she's just looking for the key. Everyone madly scrambled to get her own passport. We were told to stand together and not move a muscle. As if we could! One checked our passports, 2 turned the apartment upside down, checked the ceiling and windows like they are looking for rats. Luckily, everyone present has a legal visa.

These are two of my worst encounter with the OZ unit. I can't count the times I got my passport checked on the streets. I had heard of rumors where they took advantage of the hapless foreign caregiver, even taking her money before giving back her passport and of course the pitiful stories of those who were caught and incarcerated in jails.

My flat mates also have experienced offensive actions by the OZ agents. They went to church on a day-off and one of them forgot to bring her passport. When they came out of the church, they boarded a sherut, surprisingly waiting outside the church gates offering to bring them to the center. They were brought to the center and when they get out, the agents were waiting. A set-up. Of course, they nabbed my flat mate. Explanations fell down on deaf ears and she was dragged to the waiting van wherein several women are sitting inside resignedly. Good thing, several standbys who knew her has the presence of mind to hold on to her, not allowing the agents to forcibly put her inside the van while one of my flat mates ran all the way home to get the passport. Good grief!

The Israeli government has the right to remove illegal aliens but illegal aliens are increasing in numbers created by the law itself, the revolving door policy. And there will always be illegals until Israel will stop bringing in foreign workers. So what does the Israeli government do? By all means, forcibly remove illegals like what they are doing now with the African refugees and by imposing expensive fines for employing illegals.

An acquaintance whom I know has no legal permit invited me to take a walk in the park. She was very cool, I was the one whose eyes is darting all around and quivering inside especially when suddenly two men in black riding a motorcycle cut through the park as if aiming for us. I didn't breathe until they passed us. So to myself I said “get used to it, babe!” for who knows what next day will bring, I might end up becoming an illegal migrant worker too (hopefully not), and to avoid humiliating myself by peeing on my pants in terror whenever a suspicious looking person is looking in my direction.

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