Family blasts ‘racist’ Israel over aliyah wait

By Simon Rocker and Michael Levertov, November 27, 2008
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A black family from South London who converted to Judaism spoke this week of their exasperation at being kept waiting more than a year to go on aliyah.

Carl and Maleka Levy and their five daughters had hoped to move to Ashkelon in August 2007, but Israel's Ministry of Interior has so far failed to approve their application.

Since their situation was first reported in the JC last November, the family had refrained from further comment, but now they have broken their silence.

"We've been kept waiting so long and they just keep putting us off. It's not right," Mr Levy said. "There's got to be some justice here."

The ministry had raised queries about the family but despite answers being supplied earlier this year, it claimed not to have received the papers.

Now the Israel Religious Action Centre, a Reform body representing the couple, has given the ministry until the end of the year to respond or it will turn to the courts.

Anat Hoffman, the centre's executive director, said: "We indeed have only sporadic examples, but since we've been engaged [in handling requests for aliyah approvals] for many years now, we feel that there is some kind of xenophobia at the ministry. There's a fear of foreigners and we found that people of dark complexion face further complications."

An official at the Jewish Agency in Israel said that information sought by the ministry was passed to it on February 20 this year.

But Sabin Hadad, a spokesman for the ministry, said in October: "The couple was asked already in January, through the Jewish Agency to complete clarifications, which were not yet delivered to us."
The Levys - who named their youngest daughter, nearly two years old, Ahliyah - were converted by the Reform Beth Din in the UK four years ago and attend Bromley Reform Synagogue.

It is understood that one query raised by the ministry was that six years ago Mrs Levy had her fourth daughter Shlomeet at a natural birthing clinic in the southern Israeli town of Dimona. The clinic is run by Black Hebrews, an American sect which is not recognised as Jewish by the Israeli authorities.

Mrs Levy denies any connection with the sect and says the clinic was recommended by an Israeli friend who knew of her preference for natural birth. "We didn't know it was run by them, it was just a place to have my baby," she said. "It's a blessing to be born in Israel."

Mr Levy said that he felt the bureaucratic delays were "probably not just about Shlomeet. They are using it as one of the issues. The racist card is being played".

Mrs Hoffman said: "Our experience shows that negligence occurs more frequently when the cases concern weak people."

But the Levys remain hopeful that they will be able to leave for Israel soon. Asked the source of their hopes, they replied: "Our faith in truth and the God of Israel."

    Last updated: 2:33pm, November 27 2008