I have been writing articles for the past couple of years concerning the unjust burdens placed upon many Jewish people who have tried to immigrate to their homeland – something which should be a fairly simple process but instead has become a nightmare placed upon them by bureaucrats who have done all they can to discourage them.
The article entitled, “Thoughts of a new immigrant,” which appeared in The Jerusalem Post on April 2, takes that to a whole new level. The writer’s first paragraph speaks about his process taking a year to complete and the many bureaucratic hoops through which he had to jump in order to obtain his citizenship.
Naturally, I immediately went to the end of the article which contained his bio in order to see who he was. And here is the shocker. The writer is said to hold several Jewish communal leadership positions in the US, including a synagogue president, the founder and president of Frankel Jewish Academy High School in West Bloomfield, MI, and a member of the AIPAC National Council.
If those bonafides are not enough to immediately grant him citizenship, then I don’t know what is. Yet, even possessing such impeccable credentials, Robert Roth says that he waited a year to finally be awarded the prize of citizenship.
Luckily, he says, “The hassle referred to above failed to dim my pride and excitement at the prospect of being an Israeli citizen.” Thank goodness for his persistence and determination, despite the political crisis that we are now experiencing.
Unfortunately, that is not everyone’s experience. I have heard enough horror stories of individuals whose applications were slow-walked or completely shelved for months and even years. It wasn’t that long ago that The Jerusalem Post ran a story of a woman with Israeli citizenship, whose parents were being given the third degree by being asked to provide paperwork from obscure relatives that they could not access all in the name of weeding out undesirables.
AND WHO are those undesirables?
They are those who, despite being eligible for citizenship according to the Law of Return – meaning that at least one of their parents is Jewish or at least one grandparent was Jewish – are being looked upon as not possessing an adequate amount of Jewish blood or perhaps not being observant or connected enough to Orthodox Judaism, the only accepted form of the Jewish religion per the Interior Ministry and the rabbinate.
All that is shameful, scandalous and not in keeping with the spirit of the Law of Return, which welcomes all Jews, even the grandchildren of Jews, regardless of their religious views.
As stated on the Jewish Agency website regarding the Law of Return: “With the inception of the State of Israel, two thousand years of wandering were officially over. Since then, Jews have been entitled to simply show up and request to be Israeli citizens, assuming they posed no imminent danger to public health, state security or the Jewish people as a whole. Essentially, all Jews everywhere are Israeli citizens by right.
“In 1955, the law was slightly amended to specify that dangerous criminals could also be denied that right.
“In 1970, Israel took another historic step by granting automatic citizenship not only to Jews but also to their non-Jewish children, grandchildren and spouses and to the non-Jewish spouses of their children and grandchildren. This addition not only ensured that families would not be broken apart but also promised a safe haven in Israel for non-Jews subject to persecution because of their Jewish roots.”
Anything short of adherence to this interpretation is arbitrary and mean-spirited, disregarding the law which was created for Jews who have decided that they, too, want to be part and parcel of their ancestral homeland. Denial of a Jew’s right to be acknowledged as one who is part of that ethnicity as seen by the law is tantamount to the personal discretionary selective process of bureaucrats who have decided that their power supersedes the law.
It is not only offensive but it is unconscionable at a time when more and more Jews are seriously considering making a move to Israel.
I don’t know what has happened in the case of the woman and her husband who are in their 80s, despite their daughter having Israeli citizenship. I also don’t know what has happened to the application of my friend’s parents, also in their 80s, who have yet to hear anything about their status, even though their son has already lived here for over 25 years with full citizenship.
I DON’T know why bureaucrats and clerks have the kind of power that ultimately determines if someone’s bloodline, even with valid documentation and written proof, is not good enough for the Interior Ministry but that is the case.
If the president of a synagogue, a man who is obviously observant and active in his Jewish community, has to wait a year in order to receive final approval, what chance do non-observant, unaffiliated Jews have to fulfill the Zionist dream of living amongst their people in a safe and secure refuge where they will not be persecuted for having been born a Jew or having a Jewish name?
At the moment, the doors of the Interior Ministry are as impenetrable as Fort Knox because the workers apparently believe that they have a charge to only allow the crème de la crème to enter the gates. But if that’s true, why did Robert Roth have to wait a year and what hoops did he have to jump through in order to receive the coveted seal of approval to which he had been entitled all along?
This is, yet, another good reason why the present government coalition is a bad fit for this job because in their desire to remain an exclusive gated community, there is no room for compassion, for a merciful and simple review of one’s documents and, most of all, there is no desire to justly and fairly honor the Law of Return, which welcomes Jews.
These bureaucratic overlords do not respect or revere the law and have gone way beyond what they should be permitted to judge as it pertains to one’s family heritage.
At this time, when we celebrate the passage from bondage to freedom and we remember the words of the righteous leader who told Pharaoh, “Let my people go,” each one of us should repeat those words to Israel’s Interior Ministry, “Let all Jews into Israel” without discouraging them and making them feel unworthy because if they want to be here, that already says something about their desire to be one with their people.
No bureaucrat should have the right to override their desire to finally come home.
The writer is a former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal. She is also the author of Mistake-Proof Parenting, available on Amazon, based on the time-tested wisdom found in the Book of Proverbs.