Days of Atonement: When a Father of Four is Marked for Deportation, Who's Really Being Punished?

On Saturday, Aug. 17, at around 9 a.m., immigration officials knocked on the door of a squat, two-tone apartment block in the Presidio. Moshe Hakim, an unassuming 56-year-old Israeli, was arrested within, and led away in handcuffs.

He was, at that moment, transformed. He ceased to be a San Franciscan, a shopkeeper, a husband, a father of four.

He became a statistic.

"There is 11 million people like us," says Hakim's wife, Galit, in a near whisper. "We are not the only people that is having this problem."

Her daughter Zohar, ever the American teen, doesn't glance up from an ever-present smartphone. "To be exact, mom," she interrupts, "there are 12 million."

Less than a week after Hakim was pried away from his family, the Obama administration issued a policy seemingly tailored to address him specifically. Titled "Facilitating Parental Interests in the Course of Civil Immigration Enforcement Activities," the directive instructs federal officials to use "prosecutorial discretion" in cases involving parents — especially the parents of American citizens. All four of Hakim's children are minors, and three are citizens. What's more, his 15-year-old son, Itzhak, is severely autistic and requires 24-hour care. The boy has spent the past month screaming for his father into the wee hours and methodically destroying the family's apartment.

There is, however, no gap greater than that between rules and guidelines. Hakim is currently incarcerated in a Yuba County jail and his family has been informed he could be deported at a moment's notice. He could be sent off without his relatives even receiving the courtesy of a phone call.

Your humble narrator first met Galit Hakim in the family's Grant Street antique store earlier this month, on the morning after Rosh Hashanah. Jewish New Year is a joyous event marked by raucous merrymaking and honey-dipped apples signifying sweet times to come.

Sweetness and joy are not to be found here.

Galit's large brown eyes are red with tears. She was up cradling Itzhak at 4 a.m., and is attempting to parent four children, run a business, and remedy her husband's legal woes all on her own. She seems ready, at any moment, to silently implode.

"All we wanted," she says, "was a quiet life."


Moshe and Galit "fell in love on the phone." They both hail from Jaffa, in the shadow of Tel Aviv, but he was living in San Francisco and she was staying in Miami. Massive phone bills ensued, so he wired her a plane ticket to the city. She smiles at the memory. "In six months, we had a wedding. In two months we got pregnant with our first baby." That baby is now a 17-year-old senior at Lowell High.

Hakim "never found himself in Israel." Thirty-three of his 56 years have been spent here in America. This was the place with a better tomorrow. The place to start a family. The place where you don't have to worry about terrorists dismembering your sister — which happened to Orly Hakim in 1989.

In short, this was Hakim's home. And, Thomas Wolfe be damned, Moshe Hakim decided he could go home again — and again, and again. In fact, he came and left several times since being denied re-entry in 1998 after impulsively departing the country to attend an Israeli wedding, in spite of lawyers' orders to avoid doing just that.

"Stupid, stupid mistake," grumbles Galit.

Mistakes beget mistakes. The first attorney she hired following her husband's August arrest filed a motion that understated the tally of Hakim's American children (he has three, not two); failed to note Itzhak's severe condition; and, for good measure, spelled his name "Hakeem." Her second attorney failed to return any of her phone calls. When asked what could keep Hakim stateside, attorney No. 3, Alison Dixon, blurts out, "a miracle."

In lieu of that, the family has started up a Change.org petition. Dixon is also hoping someone in government — anyone — can intervene on the family's behalf. Immigration officials, the lawyer says, seem unmoved by the recent Obama policy directive. Short of "a private bill" introduced on the federal level, she can't fathom any remedies.

And that might be tantamount to a miracle.


Yom Kippur is not a pleasant holiday; fasting all day while atoning for one's sins has a whiff of the medieval. As one grows older, the burden grows no less onerous. But it becomes profoundly and achingly meaningful. This is true regardless of one's level of religiosity. This is true whether or not you believe in God.

Just as you may be loath to surrender your pain — the pain that makes us who we are — the obligation of atonement becomes part of who we are as well. It forces us to confront the starkest and most significant questions: Who have I wronged? How can I lead a better life? Who have I become?

Well, how did I get here?

For Moshe Hakim, locked in a Yuba County jail cell during the Day of Atonement on Saturday, these questions loomed large. He has made his share of mistakes. He is, most certainly, paying for them. But so are others. Others who made no mistakes. "Why take a father with four children and a special-needs child away from his house?" cries Galit. "He didn't harm nobody."

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14 comments
jorge
jorge

For someone who lives for 33 years illegally and cross the borders illegally via  Mexico or Canada,  he deserve no mercy.  For a street thug who beat old people who intimidate and cheat tourists, he deserves no mercy.


Jazmin Morelos
Jazmin Morelos

why haven't you reported on the deportation of Latinos?? This is not something new and the numbers of deportations has increased over the last 8 years

Elle Elle
Elle Elle

I've been to Israel several times and spent a fair bit of time there. Even though the United States largely funds their existence, the average border guard is extremely rude, especially to Americans. More pertinently, I have seen special, plainclothes immigration agents who go around cities like Jerusalem walk up to random people (usually just those who look like the usual suspects-- black Africans and Russians) and ask them for their papers/proof of legal residence right then and there. Keep in mind the askees weren't doing anything wrong-- they just asked them because of how they looked. This madness really needs to stop. Why should Americans have different standards that virtually every country in the world? Why should we tolerate illegal immigration when often these same immigrants are highly intolerant or come from a country that treats immigrants far worse than we do? Have you any idea how Guatemalan illegal immigrants are treated as they pass through Mexico on their way to the United States? How does this Israeli family feel about Israeli settlements, or illegal African or Palestinian immigration to Israel, etc.?

Anna  Lee
Anna Lee

This article is severely lacking. There's no explanation as to how his citizenship status came to be. He's been in the US for 33 years. Did he just never bother to attempt to become a legal citizen or was he denied citizenship after applying numerous times? He was clearly dealing with an immigration attorney in 1998 but there's no details about what steps were taken and why citizenship wasn't granted. How about instead of writing tabloid articles designed so spark emotion y'all do some actual reporting & journalism and research some facts to provide readers with? Provide a complete story.

grasshopper18
grasshopper18

There is nothing wrong with trying to provide for a family; but I guess that the disgusting competition around Mr. Hakim doesn't think so. If only the court knew the terrible things these people have done... They would all have been imprisoned by now.

galit1hakim
galit1hakim

My husband is a good father, a good husband and a good man. He is honest and loyal. He has tons of friends all of over the world that love him, respect him, and appreciate him. With the current economy of today where people lose their houses and go bankrupt, you cannot blame someone that they didn't pay on time. All the years that my husband has lived in the United States, he has payed taxes and medical health insurance. The nasty competition that my husband needs to deal with all these years, spread rumors that are absurd and false. All that the competition wants is for my husband to not exist on Grant street on Chinatown, so that they can have less competition.

cricket
cricket

I am sure the writer of this article has good intentions and families that are separated from  there parents is a travesty. I agree the law needs to be changed for honest hard working families. Families that pay taxes and not use the system. I don't agree that all deserve the privilege of being allowed to stay. Immigrants that don't follow the law,write checks on a closed account, arrested, served with restraining orders after attacking others, send body guards to threaten people, deported twice and steal from other vendors attest to the character of a person that  we may not want to keep. I believe there needs to be guidelines that attest to the character and morals of the individual. It's truly unfortunate the children are being punished for the sins of the father.

Fiona1927
Fiona1927

I understand those charges were dismissed and he has never been convicted of any crimes. His business contributes a great deal to San Francisco...his store is not for gullible tourists, I understand the previous president of Mexico was a big customer of his. I do understand that there is some nasty competition amongst business owners there....which is really unfortunate if it comes to such a nasty act as trying to ruin a man's life....

jorge
jorge

The guy was jailed before for hitting an old man.  Also he was deported before after entering the country illegally.  He is a street mobster.  Kick him out of this country, he does not belong here.

truthinsf
truthinsf

He doesn't run an antique store as stated in the article - he runs a shop that sells cheap "art" made in Asia to unsuspecting gullible tourists at vastly inflated prices.  Lower Grant Avenue is full of such shops, all run by Israeli immigrants.  If he were to leave the US and his shop would close, San Francisco would be a better place. The store is London Gallery Antiques, at 430 Grant Avenue.  

grasshopper18
grasshopper18

@cricket Thank god you aren't a judge because if you were, you'd put innocent people in the death penalty.

grasshopper18
grasshopper18

I think what you mean is that the people around him are street mobsters, not Mr. Hakim.

grasshopper18
grasshopper18

@truthinsf Cheap art? Everything the store sells is luxurious, valuable, and worthy. London Gallery has items from all over the world. The world would be a better place if people like you would speak the truth. Don't call yourself "truthinsf," if you don't speak the truth.

 
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