A non-Jewish man and his Jewish-born wife say they are “living in complete limbo” after their Israeli citizenship application was rejected by the Jewish Agency.
Kevin and Andrea Ayres sold their home in Devon and quit their jobs 18 months ago in the hope of making aliyah to northern Israel.
Their application was made because Mrs Ayres had a Jewish grandmother.
Last month the couple, now living in temporary accommodation, began legal proceedings at the Israeli High Court in an attempt to force the Interior Ministry, which is responsible for citizenship, to grant them nationality.
Section 4A of the Law of Return states that anyone with a Jewish
parent or grandparent can claim Israeli citizenship, unless they have willingly changed their religion.
Mrs Ayres was brought up as a Christian by her Jewish mother and Christian father, but began exploring her Jewish roots eight years ago.
The former poultry company manager, said: “Eventually, she felt she would like to apply for Israeli citizenship. We have been to Israel three or four times. We rented a car and did our own thing. We really enjoyed it.
“We believe in Zionism. Although I’m a gentile we both subscribe to that and believe in the covenant of Abraham.”
Following their visits, the Ayres hoped to move permanently and planned to stay at a friend’s flat in northern Israel until they could find their own property.
They applied to the Jewish Agency in October 2007 and later travelled to London for an interview.
“I gave up my work and we sold our home,” said 56-year-old Mr Ayres. “We moved out of the house in January 2008 and have been left in complete limbo.
“We have four children and six grandchildren. Some of them have expressed an interest in joining us in Israel.
“I do understand the Orthodox have their own views, although I’m very sad about that. Israel has some great friends like us around the world.”
The couple are being represented in Israel by Michael Decker, senior legal activist at the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, a group which works for a “more pluralistic and democratic Israeli society”.
Mr Decker said: “It’s a pretty clear-cut case. It’s something that happens all the time. Israel already gave immigration rights to half a million people who are not Jewish.
“Mrs Ayres had a Jewish grandmother who never changed her religion. She was a devout Jew and there is proof that she was buried in a Jewish cemetery. We have a letter from a rabbi confirming her religion.
“The hearing is scheduled for March 2010. It will be a lengthy process but I totally believe in the case. I have won cases on this basis before.
“The Interior Ministry are lousy and disorganised. But our court system is good and I do not see any legal grounds for denying them citizenship.”
Michael Jankelowitz, Jewish Agency spokesman, said the Ayres’ case was “unclear”, but would not comment further while it is under review by the courts.