The chaos of being an Israeli parent in Britain

Israel's ‘forced citizenship’ rules for entry for the children of expats are unethical and mad


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November 11, 2021 11:08

If you want to go to Israel with your family, it pays to be American. Our cousins across the pond can enter Israel, so long as they and their children are double-vaccinated within the last 180 days.

Since most British children have had only a single dose, our families are effectively locked out. And if you’re under 50 and received your second shot six months ago, you’re out of luck too.

Given how central Israel is to Jewish identity, the country really should be pulling out the stops to help. But if the only barrier to your entry is your vaccination status, count yourself lucky, because that will probably be resolved soon.

At least you’re not an Israeli citizen living in the diaspora, like me. In many cases, the chance of us visiting Israel as a family anytime soon are slim. This is a deliberate choice by the state of Israel, whose behaviour raises serious ethical questions.

It’s all down to an archaic law that Israel only recently started enforcing, which requires Israeli citizens to enter the country with an Israeli passport.

Other countries insist on the same. But here’s the rub. Israel is one of just a handful of countries that automatically treats children born overseas to Israeli parents as citizens, too.

Without Israeli passports, young Yoni, Noa, Liam and Olivia can’t visit Saba and Savta in the old country — even though they were born in London or New York, and may be fully vaccinated. The problem is, Israel is making it exceptionally hard to register these children at the local consulates. In the past you simply had to present a birth certificate. Now, as the JC has reported, you must prove a biological connection to your child by sending in your hospital discharge papers. If you can’t provide this, you may need pregnancy scans (for a child who may be 10 or 20 years old) or a DNA test. It’s a gross invasion of privacy — would you like to send some Home Office apparatchik your medical notes?

You may also have to provide several proofs that you were in a relationship with the other parent before the birth. Again, a marriage certificate is not enough. Acceptable proofs include shared accounts, documentation of joint vacations, purchase invoices bearing both names and testimony from other Israeli citizens. Another invasion of privacy — and how easily could you provide all that, if you were married 15 or 20 years ago?

It’s grotesque and unethical. People should not be forced to turn children born in the UK into Israeli citizens. Most of these children have no Israeli identity and many speak no Hebrew. They may not even be Jewish.

Being an Israeli citizen has legal implications and obligations. Many parents would prefer their British and American offspring to make this choice themselves as adults rather than have it foisted on them at birth.

But even parents like me, who are delighted to make their kids Israeli, may not be able to.

A heartbreaking Facebook group is full of desperate, angry posts from people whose spouse or ex will not allow them to register their kids.

Others can’t access their hospital papers or afford the special DNA test, which must be approved by an Israeli court. Adoptive parents and people who used surrogates are being dragged through hell and back.

As for proving your relationship with the other parent, what if you had a one-night stand? Is that child any less yours, any less deserving of Israeli citizenship (if you want to give it to them)? It’s Kafkaesque.

What kind of a state treats its citizens this way?

One which is artificially inflating its citizenship numbers. One which is deliberately making life hard for LGBT parents, who are often those using adoption and surrogacy. (Given that all these policies were initiated by the previous government with its Charedi factions, I suspect this is the real point.)

One which regards expats disdainfully as “yordim” or “leavers” who have abandoned ship, and isn’t averse to making their life hard, either.

Again and again, Israel complains that it is losing diaspora Jewry. Yet this is how it treats Jews overseas. Israeli citizens living abroad should be Israel’s greatest friends. Mostly, they grew up in Israel and retain close ties. But thousands are diaspora-born Jews who loved Israel enough to spend a few years there, before returning home. Now they want to send their kids on a gap year or to visit relatives, only to discover they’re trapped in a bureaucratic nightmare. The goodwill is draining away.

So many of Israel’s PR gaffes are self-inflicted. But even by Israeli standards, alienating its own best advocates overseas is a spectacular own goal.

November 11, 2021 11:08

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