Government authorities are preventing non-Israeli citizens who are first-degree relatives of immigrants to Israel from joining their loved ones for their most important life-cycle events such as births, weddings and funerals, or to come to provide crucial care for ailing close relations.
The Jerusalem Post has learned of parents of a woman set to give birth in 10 days, and the parents of a 20-year-old bride scheduled to get married next month, who have repeatedly been denied entry to Israel by the Population and Immigration Authority.
In another case, the daughter of a 95-year-old Israeli woman about to undergo heart surgery has been refused entry to Israel five times.
These are a few of hundreds of recent examples in which the state has barred immigrants from welcoming their parents or children at the most crucial junctures of life, leaving many angry and distraught at their treatment by the country they chose to make their home.
In numerous cases, the applications are rejected in just a few hours, even a few minutes.
The Permits Committee of the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority, which is responsible for approving or denying these requests, says it is acting in line with government policy to limit the entrance of foreign nationals.
The authority’s website says foreign nationals may apply for an entry permit – if they are spouses of Israeli citizens or parents of a child who is an Israeli citizen – for various reasons including pregnancy, a funeral, or other humanitarian necessity, as can anyone else for the same reasons.
Nicole Grubner, 32, who made aliyah eight years ago, is due to give birth in 10 days. Her parents applied for entry permits to Israel through an Israeli consulate in Canada and were turned down several times. They also applied directly to the Permits Committee but their request was rejected there, too.
Neither Grubner nor her partner have any first-degree relatives in Israel, and she said that she feels scared by the prospect of giving birth and becoming a mother for the first time without her parents by her side.
“A birth is a physically and emotionally challenging experience, especially when becoming new parents,” she said. “It’s frustrating and scary to go through a life-changing event without support or assistance, and it’s disgraceful that the government is preventing people from having immediate family to help them at such times.”
IN ANOTHER case, the daughter of a 95-year old Israeli citizen who made aliyah 18 years ago has had her requests for an entry permit rejected repeatedly.
The woman’s granddaughter, Mandi Brandriss, who is also an immigrant to Israel, told the Post that her grandmother, who declined to be named, has experienced ill health over the last two months and recently spent the night in a hospital emergency ward due to breathing difficulties.
Her grandmother now needs surgery to replace her aortic valve, and is scheduled to go into the hospital on Monday for the procedure.
The woman’s daughter, who lives in Australia, has made five separate requests from the Permits Committee of the Population and Immigration Authority for an entry permit into Israel to see her elderly mother, the first of which was on March 16, all of which have been rejected.
In response to one of those applications the committee said: “Your request does not reflect a humanitarian need or a special personal need that justifies granting approval of your request.”
Brandiss said her mother provided all the necessary documentation, including a letter from the surgeon performing the surgery, and a letter from Stein’s family doctor attesting to the importance of Stein’s daughter being present before and after the procedure.
“It just seems that there’s no humanity,” said Brandiss, adding that her family is desperate for the government to change its policy regarding emergency situations.
“I can’t even imagine the pain my mother is going through,” Brandiss said. “I myself have had sleepless nights about it. It’s heart-wrenching to think you can’t go and see your mother, when next week she might not even be here any more.”
IN ANOTHER case, Javah Levy, a 20-year-old immigrant from Spain, is scheduled to get married next month.
Both Levy’s parents and those of her fiancée, who also made aliyah from Spain, have applied several times for an entry permit to attend their children’s wedding, but have also been turned down repeatedly time after time.
Levy said they may hold the wedding in Spain to accommodate their parents, but noted that all of her grandparents, uncles, aunts and friends now live in Israel, and they would not be able to attend the wedding abroad. She said this was a terrible dilemma.
Levy added that with the May 6 wedding date rapidly approaching, and the likely need of their parents to quarantine on arrival, they now have only some 10 days to decide where to hold the wedding.
“It’s really frustrating – you make aliyah because its your country, but without knowing the language and without having a home,” she said. “But when you get married you at least want to have your parents there. It’s very sad for everyone. Weddings are a celebration, but I don’t want to remember all my life that no one danced with me and I got married alone if we have to go to Spain to be married, or on the other hand, to marry without my parents.”
The Post is familiar with more cases where the parents of pregnant women about to give birth and couples about to get married have been denied entry into Israel.
Former MK Dov Lipman, who has been working for months to help both Israelis and relatives of Israelis caught in such situations to get into Israel, condemned the approach.
“We have forgotten what it means to be a Jewish state,” said Lipman. “Actually to be a human state. I support rules to prevent the spread of corona, but at this point we have all the technology and resources to make sure that it doesn’t spread. And not allowing parents to come to their children’s weddings, or to help with their daughter’s with childbirth, is inhumane.”
Lipman said he had called on the government to immediately create a mechanism to address the crisis.
The Population and Immigration Authority said in response that the criteria for applying for entry permits were “transparent to everyone,” and were published online.
“The decision whether the request meets the criteria or not lies with the members of the committee and not the applicant or journalists,” the authority said. “The policy of the government is still for limited entry for foreign nationals into Israel, and the committee is acting in accordance with it.”
Lipman labeled the response “a disgrace,” and said it demonstrated “all that can be wrong with government. That is not a humane response. Where is the heart? Where is the soul? Where is the caring? Where is the recognition that people are suffering for no reason now that there are vaccinations? I don’t accept this, and no one should. I and others involved won’t rest until we get this policy changed.”