Court grants permanent residency to battered non-Israeli who left husband

Court rejects state's argument that it had no obligations towards Larissa because she was not an Israeli citizen, since the new Interior Ministry regulations declared that it did.

court gavel 88 (photo credit: )
court gavel 88
(photo credit: )
The Interior Ministry has lost the third of four petitions filed by the Israel Religious Action Center on behalf of battered women from abroad, who married or established common-law relationships with Israeli men and were not granted permanent residency after they left their mates. The case, which was settled earlier this week by Jerusalem District Court Judge David Cheshin, involves Larissa Shem-Tov, a non-Jewish woman who married a Jewish man, Sergei, in Russia in 1992. The couple had a baby, Yeketrina, but divorced in 1995 because of domestic violence. Sergei immigrated to Israel in 1998. Two years later, in July 2000, Larissa, came here with their daughter and remarried Sergei. On April 11, 2002, Larissa began the four-year family reunification process at the end of which she would be eligible for permanent residency status. At that time, she was given temporary resident's status, renewable at the end of one year. The following month, Larissa lodged a complaint against Sergei for beating her. She and her daughter left Sergei's home a short while later. In April 2003, Larissa applied to renew her temporary status. The Interior Ministry refused on the grounds that her marriage to Sergei had not been genuine. She appealed the decision and this time was granted temporary residency for half a year. For the next two years, the permit was renewed for three months at a time. In February 2005, after her marriage was formally annulled, Larissa applied for Israeli citizenship. The request was turned down by the special interministerial humanitarian committee established to deal with special problems involving residency in Israel. She petitioned against the decision to the Jerusalem District Court, asking it to order the Interior Ministry to grant her permanent residency. She also asked the ministry to formulate regulations for dealing with foreign women who left their husbands in the middle of the family reunification process because they were beaten by them. In the wake of the petition, the interministerial committee met again and granted Larissa a one-year temporary resident's permit until June 2007. By this time, Larissa had been a temporary resident for five years. In 2007, the interministerial committee extended her temporary permit by two years. This time, however, the decision was based on new Interior Ministry regulations enacted a few months earlier. The regulation dealt, among other things, with women in Larissa's situation and authorized the interministerial humanitarian committee to either grant permanent residency to such women, or extend their temporary residency for two years. In Larissa's case, the committee chose the second option. Larissa petitioned the court against the decision and asked to be granted permanent residency. Cheshin accepted her petition. "The fact that the new regulation allows the committee to grant a two-year extension during which the authorities can once again examine whether there has been a 'change in circumstances' does not mean, as the state argued, that it can examine the applicant forever and thereby never grant her permanent resident status," he wrote. He added that the committee should have taken into account that Larissa had been in Israel seven years and that the uncertainty of her status in Israel was taking a heavy toll on her daughter, Yeketrina. He also rejected the state's argument that it had no obligations towards Larissa because she was not an Israeli citizen, since the new Interior Ministry regulations declared that it did.