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Israeli children born abroad are automatically citizens, yet some are locked out

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Thousands of Israeli children living overseas have been barred from entering Israel since March 2020 because they lack passports, and the issue has become even more pressing in light of Israel’s new Omicron-related border closures.

These children are legally Israeli citizens through parentage, despite having been born abroad, even if their parents never registered them with the state. This is because Israel’s 1952 Nationality Law automatically ascribes citizenship to a child born abroad to an Israeli parent. In a Kafkaesque turn, citizenship applies even if the state is unaware of these foreign-born citizens, and in a catch-22, citizenship can only be terminated following registration.

Prior to Israel’s first COVID-19 lockdown, these children were able to enter Israel as tourists on their foreign passports. This practice was abruptly ended when Israel closed its skies to non-citizens, and embassies abroad refused to grant entry permits to these Israeli children until their parents obtained Israeli passports for them, catching many off-guard.

According to a spokeswoman for the Population and Immigration Authority, the Israeli passport requirement had previously been “enforced, but not strictly. COVID-19 obliged us to be careful, as it obliges many states to take many actions that have not been taken before.”

Since then, Israel has made numerous exemptions for non-citizen students, business travelers, and intermittently even tourists to enter the country, yet it officially still excludes citizens without passports.

An ongoing court case brought by parents seeks to ease what they have called “draconian” and ever-shifting conditions for bringing their children into Israel. These 36 families have sued the state in the High Court of Justice demanding that it admit their children under the pre-COVID policy.

The families are represented by lawyers Batya Sachs and Gilad Itzhak Bar-Tal, who proposed a simple solution to the court. According to Sachs, “what we suggested is, in order to let them come into the country, just introduce a declaration by the parent saying that the child is their child and make them able to come in using their dual citizenship, their foreign passport.”

Sachs says that the court recognizes these children are Israelis and “made a decision that the government should review the policy” regarding how to enable them to come into the country. The........

© The Times of Israel

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