A PLANE at Ben-Gurion International Airport..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Yehuda Kimani, a Jewish man from Kenya, was deported from Ben-Gurion Airport on Tuesday despite having legally obtained a tourist visa through the Israeli Consulate in Nairobi.
Kimani converted to Judaism several years ago through the Conservative movement and became active in the rural mountain community where he lives.
He spent a summer at the Brandeis Summer Institute in Los Angeles studying Judaism, and earlier this year he applied to study to study at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
Kimani applied for a threemonth tourist visa through the consulate in Nairobi, while a prominent member of a Masorti (Conservative) synagogue in Jerusalem agreed to be his sponsor in Israel, signing a bank guarantee for his presence in the country and agreeing to cover all of his costs, including flight, housing and tuition.
The Interior Ministry, however, denied his visa request.
He reapplied in November, and following checks conducted by the Nairobi consulate, including confirming with the Conservative Yeshiva that Kimani had been accepted to study there, his visa application was approved.
Kimani’s visa was stuck into his passport and signed and stamped by the Israeli ambassador to Kenya. He flew to Israel on Monday and arrived in the evening.
Despite his valid visa, Kimani was detained by the border authorities and held at the airport until Tuesday morning, when he was expelled and deported to Ethiopia.
The Interior Ministry said Kimani’s second visa application had been “fraudulently obtained,” since he had not stated that his first application had been rejected, and there was “a concern he would remain [illegally]” in the country after his visa expired.
The Interior Ministry said his first application was rejected because there was a concern he would remain beyond the three-month duration of a tourist visa. But it refused to say why it thought this was a possibility.
Officials in the Masorti Movement have reacted angrily to Kimani’s deportation, noting that the Interior Ministry frequently rejects visa applications from Jews connected with their denomination from developing countries and accusing the ministry of racism.
“There is no question that it is about the color of his skin,” said Rabbi Andy Sacks, director of the Masorti Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly in Israel.
“He’s a black person from Africa; that’s the only reason to suspect he will want to stay illegally. We’ve seen it with visa applicants from Venezuela, Uganda and now Kenya and for many people of color. It’s outrageous.”
The Masorti Movement said it would be filing a letter with the Interior Ministry demanding an apology and seeking damages for Kimani’s aborted trip.
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