MK Shai: Masa, Birthright participants should get automatic visas to extend stay in Israel

Labor lawmaker seeks to submit bill to help participants in long-term educational programs make aliya.

NBN aliya flight (photo credit: Sasson Tiram)
NBN aliya flight
(photo credit: Sasson Tiram)
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar must allow participants on Birthright and Masa longterm programs to stay in Israel longer, the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Committee said Tuesday.
MK Nachman Shai (Labor) plans to ask Sa’ar to pass regulations granting an automatic six-month visa to participants in Masa, Birthright and other state-sponsored educational programs. If Sa’ar does not do so in a timely manner, Shai will submit a bill to that effect.
“We’re talking about a small number of people. If they’re already here, we should at least give them another six months.
Then, if they want to stay longer, they can go through the Law of Return process,” Shai told The Jerusalem Post.
The Labor MK pointed out that many participants in Masa and Birthright have trouble getting work or student visas when the programs end, often because they have difficulty proving they are Jewish.
“I’m not going to try to change the Law of Return; that would be crazy and it won’t work,” Shai said, “but six months gives people time to prove their Jewishness.”
The committee meeting on the absorption of young people who participated in educational programs in Israel followed a motion to the agenda submitted by Shai.
“The purpose of these programs is to create a significant experience and build their connection to Israel. The problems start when they’re successful and the young people want to stay in Israel – either to study or work and continue the experience – and they find that they do not have the right to make aliya according the Law of Return and can’t get a visa,” Shai said. “The experience of acceptance these young people had on their programs turns into one of rejection.”
Amos Arbel of the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority said that the programs are to blame, as they should check whether their participants or Jewish or not.
“I follow the law and whoever falls under the Law of Return can stay in Israel,” Arbel said.
Birthright Vice President of International Marketing Noa Bauer said Arbel’s request is not reasonable.
“We bring 40,000 people to Israel every year and we try to bring those who are far from the Jewish world, because of assimilation,” Bauer said. “We can’t ask those kinds of questions, because the participants don’t have any idea how things work in Israel.”