Israel's new government wants to tighten eligibility for making Aliyah

i24NEWS

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New immigrants from France kiss the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport as they arrive in Israel.
JACK GUEZ / AFPNew immigrants from France kiss the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport as they arrive in Israel.

Immigration candidates from the former Soviet Union will be the first affected by the measure

Proposed changes to the new Israeli government's Law of Return, agreed to by coalition partners, could tighten eligibility for immigration to only children of at least one Jewish parent.

The new government has indicated that it would introduce a change in the 1950 law to exclude the grandchildren of Jews from those who qualify for citizenship. 

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According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), there are approximately half a million citizens "who do not identify as members of any major faith." The CBS specified that the majority of this population, which has increased in recent years, is made up of immigrants from the former Soviet republics.

Criticism of the proposal has been heard by Israelis and by Jewish and Zionist leaders around the world. In a recent letter sent by the heads of seven Jewish and Zionist organizations, they warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that any changes to the law could cause "a rift with the Jewish Diaspora."

Israel began registering "other" citizens - i.e. not affiliated with the Jewish, Christian, or Muslim religions - in 1995. They then numbered 85,000, while today their number is estimated to have been multiplied by six.

Many of them are children of immigrants and Israelis who arrived in the country under the Law of Return. As such, they are subject to the rights and duties of all citizens, including compulsory military service. 

They are, however, not recognized as Jews according to the religious establishment and therefore cannot marry, since there is no civil marriage in Israel. They also cannot be buried in Jewish cemeteries. 

Successive Israeli governments have attempted to facilitate conversions for those wishing to become Jews and to allow the country not to be divided between Jews and those with no religion but these efforts have been hindered by the Chief Rabbinate. The current coalition has chosen to prevent the arrival of new non-Jewish immigrants, whether they are married to Jews or from the third generation of members of the Jewish family, by modifying the law. But a dedicated commission to present its recommendations has not yet been set up.

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