High Court withdraws emerging communities aliyah petition

Judge: Case not suitable to determine principle

High Court of Justice prepares for hearing on whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can form the next government, May 3, 2020 (photo credit: COURTESY HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE)
High Court of Justice prepares for hearing on whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can form the next government, May 3, 2020
A petition to the High Court of Justice that addressed the eligibility of Jews from so-called emerging Jewish communities in the Diaspora to make aliyah was withdrawn Monday without the issue being resolved.
The case was filed by Masorti Olami (World Council of Conservative/Masorti Synagogues) on behalf of Yosef Kibita, a member of the Abayudaya community of Jewish converts in Uganda.
There are about 2,000 members of the Abayudaya community in Uganda, according to the Masorti Movement (Conservative Judaism in Israel). They adopted Judaism in the early 20th century after their leader, having been exposed to the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament by Christian missionaries, chose to be Jewish.
Most members formally converted through the US Conservative movement between 2002 and 2010. They were recognized as a Jewish community by the Jewish Agency in 2009.
Kibita, who converted in 2008, has been in Israel for almost three years and currently resides at Kibbutz Ketura.
A High Court ruling in 2002 and criteria subsequently published by the Interior Ministry determined that a community with infrastructure and recognized by one of the major Jewish denominations or the Jewish Agency should be eligible for recognition under the Law of Return.
Kibita applied to make aliyah about two years ago. The Interior Ministry rejected his request because since the Masorti Movement recognized the Abayudaya community in 2009 and Kibita converted in 2008, his conversion for the purposes of aliyah was not valid.
In Monday’s hearing, Judge Menachem Mazuz said since Kibita converted before the Masorti Movement recognized the Abayudaya community, evaluating the substantive issue of the community’s eligibility for aliyah would not be possible.
For the court to address the issue of the validity of claims to aliyah from emerging communities, Mazuz recommended that Kibita return to Uganda, undergo a further conversion process and then refile his request for aliyah. If the Interior Ministry again rejects his request, then the case could be refiled, he said.
Being that this process would take a long time, Kibita could undergo an additional conversion process with any recognized Jewish community abroad and make aliyah once his conversion is approved, Mazuz said.
“The state is not thrilled with this idea” of Jews from emerging communities making aliyah, he said, adding that “at one stage or another there will be no escape from clarifying the issue.”
The attorney for the Masorti Movement, which is representing Kibita, withdrew the petition. The Interior Ministry said it would extend Kibita’s visa while he decides what to do.
The Interior Ministry does not want conversions abroad, particularly in developing countries, to be used to manipulate the Law of Return to receive citizenship.
In a January 2018 Knesset committee hearing regarding another member of the Abayudaya community who was seeking a student visa to study in Israel, the Interior Ministry’s Amos Arbel said: “Do you want half of Africa here?”