The Israeli Ministry of Interior – playing with matters of life and death
A sign at the Ministry of the Interior/Ministry of Immigrant Absorption at the Government Village, Haifa. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Since she found out her Jewish identity, Sara (not her real name) had a dream to immigrate to Israel. Sara was adopted at age 6, never knowing that her birth father was Jewish. It wasn’t until age 12, when she came across a photo of Anne Frank, that she couldn’t help but notice how similar she looked to her.
Only a few years later, when asked to do a family roots project at school, did Sara come across the fact that Jewish blood ran through her veins. That revelation led to her desire to return to her ancestral homeland. She asked a court to unseal her family records in order to prove her ethnicity and was miraculously granted an order to have her documents released to her for the sole purpose of obtaining citizenship in Israel – a rare decision by the American courts to corroborate her birthright.
Sara began to see the light at the end of the tunnel after a kind Ukrainian woman offered to help Sara, suggesting that she and her family leave the U.S. and try to immigrate from the Ukraine. However, even after obtaining this woman’s help, upon arriving in Israel, Sara was told by the Ministry of Interior that her documents were inadequate to grant her citizenship.
Although she says she has given them everything workers there have demanded, the Ministry of Interior continues to derail her and not advance her situation. After receiving a deportation notice, Sara realized she had no choice but to hire an attorney to help her get what was rightfully hers – full citizenship as a Jew in the country which promises the Right of Return to all natural born Jews.
It has now been three years, and the battle is still pending even with the assistance of a law firm dedicated to fighting these discrimination cases on behalf of Jews who are not followers of today’s rabbinic Judaism.
Sadly for Sara, this injustice of living in a country with no status has had repercussions. Her husband is unable to work legally and there were times when they barely had enough food to feed their family.
Even worse is the medical condition of Sara’s 12-year-old child who suffers from serious asthma attacks. One such attack last year landed him in the emergency room unable to exhale. His lungs swelled and the life-threatening position caused the hospital staff to seriously consider putting him on life support. Although he survived that particular attack, another one could be fatal.
Sara and her husband also cannot legally drive in Israel since driving without an Israeli license after one year is not permitted. Obtaining an Israeli license is not possible without a clear status, which they lack. This means that they rely on kind neighbors who, in the event of another life-threatening attack, will drive their son to the emergency room, if they are even available to do so.
At one point, Sara asked permission from the Ministry of Interior to return to the U.S. to obtain crucial medicine for her child but was denied this request. Now the temporary health insurance they had in Israel has chosen not to renew their policies without giving any reason for that decision. Although they might be able to secure another company, the $350 needed per month to pay for health insurance is expensive especially considering they are not able to work.
Even to insure their one child will cost $75 per month. This while they are still paying off their present hospital bill of $25,000. Sara pleaded with the judge who is overseeing their case highlighting the need for her child to receive a thorough examination and medicine, but the judge continues to side with the Ministry of Interior and has granted them 10 extensions for what were clearly bogus reasons designed to stall.
Sara desperately wants to remain in Israel with her family as full citizens, but the Ministry of Interior is playing an all too familiar game designed to wear them down both financially, emotionally and now physically. They have been doing this with other Jews who they deem to no longer be Jews by virtue of the fact that their faith does not line up with the only expression of what is considered to be the Jewish religion acceptable in Israel: Orthodox rabbinic Judaism. Even Conservative and Reform Jews cannot be married by their own rabbis in the State of Israel as they are not accepted as observant enough to qualify as legitimate alternative streams of Judaism.
In short, the system has been hijacked by a handful of extreme zealots who have a vested interest in weeding out all those they consider to be undesirable. This was the very thing done to their own people throughout centuries of host countries rejecting and persecuting God’s chosen. It is unthinkable that history would repeat itself in this way by those who suffered now perpetrating this horrible injustice upon the weakest among them, at the mercy of those who have arbitrarily decided that rabbinic faith trumps Jewish blood.
The Ministry of Interior is playing a dangerous game, both morally and legally. The Law of Return categorically states that individuals who have one Jewish parent or grandparent are eligible for citizenship. This does not stipulate whether one is an observant follower of rabbinic Orthodox Judaism.
With mounting legal and medical bills of over $30,000, Sara has all but given up.
Many others who were waiting for their rights to materialize and who, as a result of not being able to become a productive member of Israeli society, became weary and left humiliated, rejected and cast aside. That is already unconscionable.
But in the case of Sara, a Jewish mother, who will be responsible if tragedy befalls her child due to the illegal, outrageous and unethical persecution of Jewish-born Messianic believers? Who will admit denying this family their God-given right to a home with their own people? And who will justify, God-forbid, the death of another innocent Jew?
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Chava Stein, the granddaughter of Jewish European immigrants to the U.S., made Aliyah to Israel in 1993. Married to an Israeli, they live in the center of the country.