Family 'heartbroken' as Israel refuses aliyah

The Levys are popular members of their south London community

The Levys are popular members of their south London community

A black Jewish family from South London who have been trying to make aliyah for more than two years have had their application rejected by Israel’s Interior Ministry.

Carl and Maleka Levy, who converted from Rastafarianism through the Reform movement six years ago, had planned to go out to Israel with their five daughters in August 2007.

But despite testimonials from British rabbis and intervention by Israeli lawyers on their behalf, they were notified last week that they would not be allowed to emigrate under the Law of Return.

Mrs Levy said the family were “too heartbroken” to speak now.

No one from the Interior Ministry was available to comment. However, it is understood that the Israeli authorities had been concerned over the family’s contact with the Black Hebrews in Israel, an American-founded sect which is not recognised as Jewish.

Six years ago Mrs Levy had her fourth daughter, Shlomeet, in Israel at a natural birthing clinic run by the Black Hebrews in the southern town of Dimona.

We are nothing to do with the Black Hebrews

Mrs Levy has explained that the arrangements were made by an Israeli friend who knew of Mrs Levy’s preference for natural birth. She insisted that they are not part of the sect.

“We didn’t know it was run by them, it was a place to have my baby,” she previously told the JC.

The family’s case was taken up by the Israeli Religious Action Centre, a Reform agency which has brought legal cases on behalf of converts facing obstacles from the authorities.

Last year members of Bromley Reform Synagogue, which the family attends, raised money to send Mr and Mrs Levy to Israel to be present at a hearing at the ministry. (Mr Levy is an odd-job man in his 50s originally from Jamaica, while his English-born wife is a dressmaker, studying travel and tourism.)

The JC understands that they were grilled by officials about their previous visits to Israel and challenged over details of when they had first come to the country and with whom they had stayed.

Bromley’s Rabbi Tony Hammond, who has supported the Levys throughout, said: “The status of their conversion is not in question. They continue to be well-liked members and their daughters are at our cheder.”

    Last updated: 4:40pm, January 28 2010