Lev Cosijns

Disillusioned – A Family Torn Apart by Heartless Immigration Policies

A trip with the family in the Yorkshire Moors in March 2018.

The worst part of these last few months has been the waiting. The constant stomach aches, the checking and rechecking of notifications on the phone, the exhaustion of always wondering when. When will we know? The sleepless nights over the last few weeks have been especially bad, and the stress has had the entire family on edge. And from what the Ministry of Interior has said, I guess we will never know. This never-ending state of anxiety will remain, because despite having all the required documentation, the Ministry of Interior refuses to go over the documents and allow my father to live in Israel and instead has denied him a tourist visa, for fear he will “settle down.” 

My father, Rudy, a Christian and son to a Japanese mother and Belgian father, has been married to my Jewish-Israeli mum, Rachel, for 29 years. They met 32 years ago on a scholarship to Japan, fell in love and have been inseparable and best friends ever since. Despite moving around a lot (Japan, England, Hungary, England, Japan again – it’s hard to keep track), the one constant thing every year was our family summers in Israel. No matter where we were in the world, all of us as a family would go to Israel and spend the summer there seeing family, spending time together and enjoying the sun, sea and history of Israel. 

These visits connected us to Israel so much so that on turning 18, I decided to join the army as a lone soldier through the Garin Tzabar programme, with my sister following in my footsteps, three years later. We moved to Israel to fulfil our dream and what we saw as our duty as Israeli citizens. We have served here as lone soldiers, studied here, worked here, paid our taxes and have planned to make our entire lives here. And despite the fact that three of the four of us are Jewish and Israeli citizens, my father’s application has been left in a constant state of limbo indefinitely.  

The country to which we moved to, for which we changed our expected life trajectory, has deeply and personally let us down. Through the long, drawn-out processes of the Ministry of Interior which we were subjected to during the last few months, we have realised that there is no justice, no logic, no care and no empathy for Israeli citizens who have non-Jewish relatives. 

We have had to produce absurd documents, such as a document showing that my father was a bachelor before he married my mother, and that he did not marry anyone else after his marriage to my mother, for each of the four countries that he has lived in. On asking for such a document at the four different embassies, you are greeted with very blank looks by the staff. Moreover, many of the documents have to be periodically requested, translated and notarized with an apostille. We have poured our heart, soul, time and money into this dysfunctional and complicated system just to be told again and again that our father is not allowed to enter the country. According to Israeli law, this should not be an issue. However, as we have seen and have been subjected to over the last ten months, this is not the case. 

My mother and father on the banks of the Mekong River in northern Thailand, 1990.

My sister and I are Israeli citizens who have given a lot to this country, not because we had to, but because we wanted to and this treatment of our family is the ultimate betrayal of our zionist dream. We want our family together in Israel. And yet, asking for our father to be here with us seems to be too much to ask from the authorities of this country. When we go to the airport and see plane after plane landing with tourist groups, yeshiva students, foreign students, and other torn families who cried blood, sweat and tears to reunite with their families, we wonder, why is our father not allowed in too? 

Indeed, we are not alone in this situation. This state of uncertainty is the new norm for many families. (For a taste of equally terrible stories on the inadequacy and needlessly complicated Israeli bureaucracy see the Facebook page Reunite Olim with Their Families). In 2020 alone 41,000 applications for Aliya were made, double from 2019, and the number of Olim was only 20,000. On the other hand, my father cannot even make aliyah, let alone travel as a tourist to Israel despite the fact that he is a Belgian citizen, who is not even required to have a visa to travel to Israel. We will not know our father’s visa status at least until January, maybe even longer, and it deeply hurts us that the country which we love has completely abandoned us, throwing our future into uncertainty and forcing us to relocate our family elsewhere.

About the Author
Lev Cosijns made Aliya in 2011 through Garin Tzabar to join the IDF, where she became an officer in the Medical Corps. She received the Army General award for excellence (מצטיינת רמטכ"ל) for her work in Operation Protective Edge. Lev is currently pursuing a masters in Archaeology at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.
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