Aliya experts: Can a non-Jewish tourist become a citizen?

Vol LXI: As a tourist living and working in Israel for over 2 years, can I become a citizen without having to marry? I am not Jewish.

aliyaexpert88 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The expert is Maurice Singer, Senior Aliyah Consultant at the Jewish Agency. While every care and attention is made to give accurate answers, no responsibility can be taken by the writer or the Jewish Agency if the information offered may prove to be misleading. Send us your questions.
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  • For Vols LV to LVIII click here * * * Vol LXI Q: My grandmother, my mother and I are halachically Jewish, but my grandmother married a non-Jew and apparently seems to have changed her religious affiliation after WWII. My mother and I are not Christians as my grandfather was. Besides, I have an official document issued by the Rabbinate confirming our Jewishness. All my family lives in Israel and now I have a strong desire to reach them. Do I have any chance to make Aliya under the Law of Return despite the fact that my grandmother is considered "nozrit"? What is the correct interpretation of my case? A: It is extremely difficult to give an accurate opinion without some deeper inquiries into your family history. I would like to see the document issued by the Rabbinate before venturing an opinion. You can write to me directly at [email protected] Q: My mother settled in British mandate Palestine at the age of six in 1926 with her parents, my grandparents. My grandparents remained in Israel for the rest of their lives and were Israeli citizens. My mother left Israel before 1952 to marry my British father and did not apply for an Israeli passport until she returned to Israel to live after the death of my father in 1972. I applied for an Israeli passport due to my mother being Israeli but was told that as she had originally left before 1952, her return to Israel in 1972 was as an olah chadasha. Therefore, I was unable to apply by having an Israel mother. Am I able to apply for an Israeli passport as both my grandparents were Israeli? A: Having Israeli grandparents does not give you the option of applying for an Israeli passport. However I don't understand the part regarding your Mother being an Olah Chadasha . More info needed here. Q: We are planning on making aliyah in the summer of 2008. At that time our oldest son will have already turned 18, and is interested in postponing his official aliyah in order to qualify for his own basket of benefits. He would like to join the Army through the Machal volunteer program, but has been given conflicting information as to whether this is allowed or not, given that we will have become citizens. Can you shed any light on this? A: There is a lot of wrong information concerning benefits of persons between the ages of 17-25 wanting to make aliyah at the same time as their parents. If your son makes Aliyah at the same time as you he will have his own benefits in Customs, he will miss out on about 7000 nis Absorption money. I would suggest that if he really wants to join the Army then he should do the full service like everyone else his age. He will become a real Israeli. Q: I made aliyah from America, had babies and raised a family. Now, I'd like to pursue BA and MA degrees, and join the work force. Am I still entitled to receive government assistance as an oleh? [I saw you stated the government offers free BA and MA degrees] Is there a time limit on these benefits? A: Yes there is, up to age 27 for a BA and up to 3 years in Israel. Q: Hi I have lived in Israel two years as a volunteer, (all with proper Visas), including staying in the north during the last Lebanon war. I am university educated, financially stable, trained as a teacher and work in IT. I am able to find paid work in Israel and housing etc is no problem. Is there any way I can live in Israel long term, or become a permanent citizen, without having to marry? Unfortunately I am not Jewish, but no one's perfect. A: As they say "some of my best friends are……" If you find work and obtain a work permit (B-1Visa) and spend a few years here, you may apply for Permanent Residency. Then it will be up to the Israeli Ministry of Interior to decide. * * * Vol LX Q: Can a non-Jew come to Israel and convert to Judaism? How would you have to go about getting started and will the State of Israel except the conversion if it is Orthodox or not? A: The State of Israel recognizes all conversions made through Rabbis belonging to official bodies such as the Reform Movement of the USA. This does not mean that the person is considered Jewish by tha Official Rabbinical Authorities in Israel. I suggest before coming you seek the advice of a local Rabbi regarding converting in Israel. Q: My mother in law is Israeli and moved to the US in 1954. She gave birth to my husband in 1956 in the US. When he was one she brought him to Israel for a very long visit (one year) and then returned to the US. My husband has been back to Israel over 20 times but on his last visit he was told that he could not leave the country without an Israeli passport. He got his passport in Israel and came home. We have 3 kids who were born in the US. When I spoke to the Israeli consulate they told me that my 3 kids need an Israeli passport because of their father. I objected because my husband was not born in Israel and only has an Israeli passport because of his mother but they told me that he had "made aliyah" when he was one. My mother in law denies that she got citizenship for my husband, in fact she never got him a passport. Do we have any rights to refuse Israeli passports for our kids? The older two have studied for a year in Israel, the first without a passport, the second with, but now they cannot go back to study without being drafted into the army. Of course I consider this to be a problem. My other objection is that with this rule it  seems that Israeli citizenship in infinite. This means my grandkids and theirs too will have this issue of claimed citizens by the state of Israel. I hope you can help me answer these questions or guide me to someone who can help. My son may be traveling to Israel soon and I don't want him to end up stranded and not being able to return here. A: Your husband is Israeli because his Mother is and therefore he was born Israeli. There are about 150 million US citizens that don't have US passports simply because they have not traveled abroad! Therefore you're your Mother in law was right, she never got citizenship for him because he was one already!!. However the Law is NOT infinite if you children will not establish their Israeli citizenship, then their children i.e. your Grandchildren will NOT be Israeli. Q: I converted to Judaism in Israel, my mother hasn't converted, but wants to come live in Israel with me. She wants to convert when she gets here. What should we do? A: She should do the same as you did. Q: My father is Israeli, I was not born in Israel, but made Aliyah with my parents when I was 7 but left when I was 9. Thus I believe I am considered a Katin Chozer and require Israeli passport which I have. Question: is If/when we make Aliyah with our 4 kids, are my kids classified as such and do they require Israeli passports before we leave? My wife is classified as Olah chadasha. A: Assuming that your wife comes under the Law of Return then yes she will be an Olah Chadasha and yes again your children need Israeli passports. Q: My husband and I want to make aliyah. However, we have familial obligations and we can't physically move to Israel yet. Can we visit Israel, make aliyah and then come back to the US, thereby having dual citizenship and still supporting the State of Israel, though we wouldn't be able to live there, yet? A: Yes you may. Q: I understand that when making aliyah one gets free ulpan to learn Hebrew and the courses last approx. 5 months. Could one split the ulpan in 2 periods of 2 and 3 months each to be taken in . . A: NO Q: I am new immigrant from Venezuela; I arrived in Israel in May 2003. Do I have any benefits to get a mortgage to buy a house? If yes, how much time do I have to get it before that benefit expires? How do I do to get it? To whom do I go? Please give all the details you can. A: You need to go to any Bank in Israel and apply for a Certificate of Eligibility (Teudat Zakaut). This will tell you how much you will be able to borrow at special rates. This benefit lasts for 10 years from the date of your Aliyah Q: I am planning on making aliyah a little before my 28th birthday. I have read and been told that i will not be able to do any active service time. Is there any way to petition the IDF to allow me to join up after ulpan? Is garin an option? A: You will have to make an application to the Army and it will be up to them to decide if they can use you. I don't think that a Garin is the answer. * * * Vol LIX Q: I was born in Israel moved to the US as a baby with my parents and would like to return as a returning minor. I am an Israeli citizen still, I never got US citizenship, just permanent residency.  I would like to make Aliyah. However I have a criminal record for possession of a controlled substance a few years ago.  Will I still be able to make Aliyah? A: You can't make Aliyah as such because you are already an Israeli citizen. You can apply to return home to Israel, because of your past your case will have to be considered by the Israeli Ministry of Interior. Q:I am one of the Lost Tribe of Bnei Menashe, living in India now. We have been immigrating since last 10 years, with an average of 20 person per year. Last august 2007, with the permission of Boim-the then interior minister who gave us a quota of 200 people per year to immigrate which we did for the first time one Aug. 28 2007, but Interior minister Meir Sheetrit slammed the doors now temporarily. Now, I would like to ask if I can come to Israel with a long time visa and become citizen, if yes, will I get all the benefit and help which has been given to all immigrant Jews? How will I work for my livelihood before I get citizenship? Because I just want to come NOW!and I don't want to wait for the cabinet decision. We are already recognized by Rabbi Shlomo Amar. I want to come alone and in private. If I wait for the Govt. of Israel to recognize it may take a year or two or no. I follow orthodox Judaism. A: The Jewish Agency has a special dept dealing with Indian Aliyah, you can call them toll free from India by dialing 000 127 code 2096. Q: My question regarding Aliyah: My father is Jewish, but my mother is not. I was raised Christian. Would I be able to make Aliyah? My understanding is that if  you have at least one grandparent who is Jewish you can live in Israel? I have been told different answers on this question depending on who I ask. I appreciate your help. A: The Law of Return provides for persons who can prove that either a parent or grandparent is/was Jewish. However another part of the same law prohibits Aliyah to those who embraced another religion such as Christianity. This is the reason for the confusion. My suggestion is that you contact the Aliyah Dept. or the Global Center toll free 1 866 835 0430. Q: I recently found out that on my maternal Grandmother's side, there are Jewish roots in the family. However, my grandmother was catholic and I believe Yeshua is the Messiah. I understand that this alone will prevent me from making aliya. Is this true? And, would I be able to make aliya based on her birth certificate or would I have to convert to Judaism? A: You are not included in the Law of Return because it doesn't go that far back. Conversion to Judaism seems to be the best solution. Q: My wife and I became citizens while living in Israel some 10 years ago. We had 2 children there, then we moved to the US where we have additional children. (I was, incidentally, passed over by the IDF due to my age). We find it is a bureaucratic chore to maintain our Israeli passport and as I am not getting any benefits from citizenship, would like to revoke it for ourselves and our 2 young children who still have it. How do we go about revoking it and would our doing so prevent our children from making aliya when they come of age? A: This "bureaucratic chore" as you describe it involves filling out ONE form every 10 years. Revoking citizenship of any country is a serious step and should be taken only after much consideration. There certainly would be issues arising if your children want to make Aliyah in the future. Q: I made aliyah a little over one year ago. How do I obtain a full Israeli passport? A:You apply for one at the Israeli Ministry of Interior. Q: I'm a Jewish convert by Reform movement in Argentina. My wife (born Jewish), my child and I made aliyah in 2002 and then left Israel. We're all Israeli citizens. While in Israel it was never clear if i was classified as a Jew. I have my teudat zeut with my birth date written on it both according to Jewish calendar and regular one. I was then told that's the indication I was admitted as a Jew in Israel. Is that right? How can I know if i was registered as a Jew in Israel? A: You are an Israeli citizen with all the benefits and obligations like any Israeli. Whether you are considered Jewish depends on who you ask! The official Rabbinut in Israel is orthodox and whereas they recognize citizenship, they do not recognize reform conversions.
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