Why did the Ministry of Interior, Misrad Hapnim immigration department, refuse to grant legal status in Israel for the parents of an Israeli soldier in active duty with the Israeli Defense Forces? How was the case resolved? The State of Israel values its soldiers; therefore parents of an IDF solider are given an exceptional possibility to obtain legal status in Israel. This special right extends to parents who are not entitled to Aliyah, based on the Law of Return, and are not allowed to obtain legal status in Israel by virtue of another law or regulation.
The procedure of granting status to the parents of IDF soldiers is intended to prevent an absurd situation in which an IDF solider, serving the State in the military, will find himself alone in Israel, while his parents are abroad, without the right to stay with their son or daughter who are risking their lives to serve the country.
However, the Population and Immigration Authority, which is the authority in charge of granting legal status in Israel for foreign citizens, often heaps difficulties on applicants seeking to regulate their status as foreigners in Israel. This includes parents of IDF soldiers – as it did in the case of the denial of status in Israel for the parents of the solider Shlomo Rabinowitz (pseudonym).
Rabinowitz Family history – hiding their connection to Judaism
Our story begins during World War II. The Rabinowitz family, a Jewish family in Odessa, Ukraine, occupied by the Nazis, destroyed documents that proved that they are Jewish, both public and private. The family managed to survive the war, but the records were never corrected. It was not easy to be identified as a Jew in the Soviet Union after the World War.
In 1990, the family members already realized that there were good reasons to preserve documents and evidence regarding their Jewish heritage, but it was already too late. It was only in 2001 that certain archival documents were found indicating that the Rabinowitz family has Jewish roots. The family requested to immigrate as Olim (those eligible for Aliyah to Israel) based on the Law of Return, but since the original documents were destroyed, the Ministry of the Interior did not think the family’s claim was proven sufficiently enough. Their request for immigration was denied.
Proper Conversion, immigration to Israel and the enlistment in the IDF
The members of the Rabinowitz family did not give up their Judaism just because the Ministry of the Interior questioned it – they legally changed their family name to the previous Jewish name, raised their children in the Jewish tradition, and sent their son, Shlomo, to study at a Yeshiva in Israel. Shlomo was educated in a religious-Zionist heritage, officially converted to Judaism, received Israeli citizenship, and enlisted in the IDF.
Shlomo served in the IDF in the Kfir Brigade (Nachshon Regiment) with distinction, participated in Operation “Tzuk Eitan” in Gaza and was released in 2017 with the rank of Sargent. During the service; he submitted a request to the Israeli immigration office to bring his parents to Israel, according to the procedure for granting status to soldier’s parents. An Israeli citizen serving in the IDF regular service for over 12 months is entitles to bring his parents to Israel.
The Ministry of the Interior refuses the request to grant legal status for the parents of an IDF solider
Shlomo and his parents, who enter Israel as tourists, submitted the request, including all the required documents, translated and certified by a legal notary, to the office of the Ministry of the Interior closest to his place of residence. Following this, the Ministry of the Interior was taking a long time to respond to the request. Shlomo called the Ministry of the Interior every week, but each time he is told that the application is being processes by at the Population Authority headquarters in Jerusalem.
After almost a year of waiting for a response to the application, the Ministry of the Interior decided to reject the request. The refusal was based on the fact that the parents’ previous Aliyah request was refused in 2001 due to “presentation of unacceptable documents”. Above and beyond that, the Ministry of the Interior increased its interpretation and explained that the procedure for granting status to the parents of a solider “will not apply to those whose entry into the country was made on the basis of false information and false documents.”
Filing an appeal to the Court of Appeals against the decision of the Ministry of the Interior
Shlomo and his parents decided at this stage to hire the services of an immigration lawyer who deals in the field of immigration to Israel in order to represent them in legal proceedings before the Ministry of the Interior. The Rabinowitz family, with the assistance of a lawyer, submitted an internal appeal to the authority’s headquarters, and after the appeal did not receive any response, they appealed to the Court of Appeals.
The main argument was that the parents of a solider are entitled to stay with their solider son in Israel. As a counter reaction to the decision of the Ministry of the Interior, the appellants claimed that there is no relation between the Aliyah application according to the Law of Return application submitted in 2001 and the application to receive status as the parents of an IDF solider. These two processes are separate. In addition, the request to immigrate was rejected at the time because the family did not have all the exact documents that were destroyed in World War II. The rejection was not due to forged documents.
The legal proceedings before the Court of Appeals were delayed because of the requests to postpone the date of the hearing by the representatives of the Legal Bureau of the Ministry of the Interior. Finally, one day before the set hearing date, the attorney of the Ministry of the Interior requested to cancel the hearing. The Ministry decided to grant legal status to the parents; on the condition that Shlomo would present an evaluation certificate after his release from the IDF (processing of the request began when Eliyahu was still a private). It was a message that all the claims of the Ministry of the Interior for the rejection of the request were unrelated to reality and indefensible.
The Ministry of the Interior grants legal status in Israel to the parents
The Rabinowitz family agreed to the proposal, and the court ruled that they must receive reimbursement of the expenses from the Ministry of the Interior in the amount of NIS 3,500. However, this is not equivalent to the insult, mental stress, waste of time, and legal expenses they had to endure. But with all of that, the members of the Rabinowitz family can now live their lives together in the Land of Israel, as they dreamed of doing back in 2001.