NOTE: The article is written from the perspective of the co-author, Dr. David Ben-Meir, who works and lives in New York with his family. He is an Israeli citizen, but his wife and children are not.
A large number of Israelis living abroad have been forced to cancel family trips to Israel as a result of new entry restrictions from the Israeli government. New guidelines from the Foreign Ministry now require children born abroad to Israeli parents to obtain an Israeli passport if they want to visit the country. In other words, unless those children get an Israeli passport, the Israeli government won’t allow them in.
There are thousands of parents around the world with children that were born outside of Israel. For years, they have been able to travel together to visit Israel without their children having to obtain an Israeli passport. But now, under this new enforcement, their children are de facto banned temporarily from entering Israel. They can’t even enter to do things like visit family, visit friends, attend a wedding or attend a funeral. For me personally, it has been over a year since my children have been able to visit their grandparents in Israel due to the pandemic. After purchasing tickets for the whole family to fly there, we were notified of the new rules and I was forced to cancel the entire trip. Now, I don’t know when I will return to Israel with my family.
The Foreign Ministry claims that this has been the law for decades, but is only now enforcing it. If that is the case, why has it not been enforced before? Why is the Israeli government enforcing it now? This law takes away basic rights from these kids that other non-Israeli citizens have. For example, if you are not an Israeli citizen, you are free to travel to Israel for stays up to 90 days. But if you happen to be born to Israeli parents outside of Israel, you no longer have this right unless you obtain an Israeli passport.
The amount of time and effort it takes to obtain all of the documents for an Israeli passport can be time-consuming. For example, the new guidelines say children must get an Israeli passport within 60 days of their return trip from Israel. For a family with multiple children, completing all of the lengthy requirements 60 days before a brief trip to Israel is not realistic.
This new enforcement makes it less likely that Israelis abroad will come to visit, which will have negative economic consequences for Israel. The economy could benefit from families like mine spending our money in Israel instead of elsewhere. The Israeli government should encourage Israelis abroad to visit the country and help repair the economy ravaged by COVID-19. Instead, they have decided to enforce a law that almost prevents Israelis that live abroad from visiting.
There are countless families with stories like mine. In an effort to have our voices heard, many of these stories have been shared on the Facebook group, “Israelis in Israel – The Effort to Change – Admission of Minors Without Passports.” The group has already added more than 4,000 members and it continues to grow.
Many of the children this law affects have never even lived in Israel and may not plan to. Why should they be forced to hold a passport in a country they have never even lived in (or perhaps even visited)?
When children born to Israeli citizens outside of Israel come to visit the country, they should be embraced by the Israeli government. It should be a time for these kids to see the country their parents grew up in. It should be a time for them to see the Land of the Jewish people. It should be a time for them to decide if they may want to one day live here. It should not be ruined by an Israeli government forcing these children to get an Israeli passport they never asked for.
About the Co-Author
Dr. David Ben-Meir is a private medical physician based in Mamaroneck, New York. He was born and raised in Israel, but now lives in the United States. He resides in Rye, New York with his wife and four children.