July 31 – 1998


Ha’Aretz, June 26 1998, by Arye Dayan


“In the past year, the Interior Minister has been implementing an aggressive policy which is not far from ethnic cleansing: the citizenship of scores of people has been revoked, and some of them have been ordered to leave the country within 14 days. They all have one thing in common: they have Jewish relatives, but they themselves are either not Jewish or their Jewishness is in doubt. The result: families are torn apart and basic rights are denied, all in the name of Heaven and the law.”

After this opening paragraph, the article goes on to detail a number of cases: A (Jewish) immigrant married a non-Jewish tourist and the Interior Ministry refused to recognize the marriage, demanding that the now-pregnant wife leave the country. When they appealed to the Supreme Court, she was offered a 6-month temporary residency and work permit, which she accepted. After their baby is born, they will go back to court to fight for citizenship. In another case, the ministry refused to recognize the marriage of a Jewish woman to  a non-Jewish man, saying that it was a fictitious marriage. When their baby was born, the father was pointedly not listed on the birth certificate. Later, when they appealed the ministry’s decision, saying that their marriage was obviously not fictitious since they lived together and had a baby, the ministry rejected their claim because “there is no proof that the baby is his daughter – after all, on the birth certificate the father’s name was left blank.”

The Interior ministry defends these and other decisions on the grounds that they are simply trying to reduce the number of foreigners receiving Israeli citizenship through fictitious marriages and forged documents. The Law of Return itself has not been changed (though the orthodox parties would like to do so – see below, ed.), but since the 1996 elections, when an orthodox minister took over the Interior Ministry, new guidelines and regulations have been enforced. One example of this is that in order to be eligible for immigrant status, a non-Jew must arrive in Israel together with his or her Jewish spouse – if they fly in separately, the gentile loses the right to become a citizen.

Some families which immigrated from the former Soviet Union in the early 90’s are also being targeted. At the time, birth certificates and other documents used to prove Jewishness were not closely inspected. Now any immigrant who goes to the interior ministry for routine paper-work is in danger of having his papers re-inspected and judged to be false. If this happens, the ministry simply sends a form letter saying that “After reviewing the circumstances in which you received an immigrant visa it has become clear that you were not eligible for this visa and Israeli citizenship. Therefore, I have decided to revoke your visa and citizenship… You must leave Israel … otherwise we will be forced to use legal measures up to and including deportation.”




HaModia, July 2 1998


Member of Knesset Rabbi A. Ravitz, of the Torah Judaism party, recently proposed an amendment to the law of return, which would remove the clause allowing people with Jewish relatives to immigrate whether or not said relative is alive and/or living in Israel. In his speech before the Knesset, Ravitz said that though the clause in question was needed in the early days of the state as an answer to Nazi racial laws, it is now being cynically abused by people who have no interest in joining the Jewish nation, but come here to live as Christians or to use Israel as a stepping-stone to the West after receiving new-immigrants’ benefits. The proposal was rejected by the Knesset plenum, led by MKs from the left and Yisrael B’Aliyah (the immigrants’ party headed by Natan Scharansky).


The committee for freedom of religion in Israel has begun a public campaign, including newspaper advertisements, in advance of the following bill’s submission to the Knesset (the preliminary reading will be in the Fall).


Proposed Basic Law: Freedom of Religion

  1. The basic rights of a person in Israel are founded on the recognition of the value of man, the sanctity of his life and his freedom, in the spirit of the principles of the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel.
  2. The objective of this basic law is to defend the freedom of religion of the citizens of the state and of the residents thereof, in the spirit of the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
  3. All persons are entitled to freedom of religion.
  4. a. No person shall be advantaged nor disadvantaged on religious grounds.
  5. No rights shall be denied, nor obligations or prohibitions imposed on a person on religious grounds.
  6. The authorities of the State shall take into consideration the interests and the needs of the religious congregations and of the various streams to maintain the way of life thereof or to observe the commandments of the religion thereof, all on the basis of equality and due balance of interests with the needs of the general public. Within the aforesaid, the State may support the public religious needs of the residents thereof, but will refrain from intervening in religious matters.
  7. a. All men and women may wed and start a family, with no restriction on religious grounds.
  8. A marriage shall be arranged in Israel according to the choice of the couple, by a religious or civil ceremony. Divorce shall be arranged according to the rules of the setting in which the     marriage shall have been arranged.
  9. a. Food served in the militia shall be kosher.
  10. Kashruth shall be assured in all State institutions serving the Jewish public.
  11. The Sabbath and Jewish holidays shall be the established days of rest in the State of Israel. Non-Jews shall reserve the right to rest on their days of rest and on their holidays.
  12. The freedom of faith, the freedom of religion and the freedom from religion shall not be infringed, but in a statute befitting the values of the State of Israel, intended for a worthy cause and not exceeding the necessary measure.
  13. Each and every authority of government must respect the freedom of religion of every person and respect the rights herein.
  14. This basic law shall not be modified but in a basic law adopted by a majority of 61 members of Knesset.


The law is being proposed by a group of MKs from Labor, Meretz and Yisrael B’Aliyah.





Ha’Aretz: National daily, published in Tel-Aviv, mostly objective towards believers.

HaModia: Jerusalem religious daily. Very hostile to believers.