‘Superhero in a kippah’ fights new aliya policy
Israel is cracking down on a phenomenon known as “passport aliya”, in which people make aliya just to gain the benefits of a passport.
But while the Jewish state is moving to implement a policy that all olim to sign a form in which they commit to living in Israel permanently, one champion of olim is determined that this doesn’t happen.
Former minister of the Knesset, Dov Lipman, and his olim advocacy organisation, Yad L’Olim, believe the policy will have an adverse effect on potential olim who don’t move their entire life to Israel and who maintain links with their previous country, whether it relates to property, children studying, or a job.
Lipman and Yad L’Olim played an integral role in getting Israel to reopen its borders to all tourists after its most recent lockdown against the Omicron variant of COVID-19. But just hours after the country announced it was open to all, Lipman was back in the Knesset to speak out against the new aliya policy.
“Today, I’m focusing on a new policy that has been announced by the population authority that’s going to require olim to make a declaration of intent in terms of being in Israel and giving up their life outside of Israel, which we find completely unacceptable,” he said in a video as he walked through empty Knesset corridors.
“It’s going to have a particular impact on olim from Western, English-speaking countries, who very often make aliya and still have homes outside of Israel or children who live outside of Israel. We’re not going to allow this policy change to happen,” he said. “We’re going to be here fighting on behalf not just of olim who have made aliya and their families, but on behalf of Jews all around the world who are considering making aliya. I have a series of meetings with members of Knesset today as we develop a coalition to try to fight against this new policy.”
Speaking to the SA Jewish Report between meetings, Lipman said, “The population authority has decided to add new questions and declarations that new olim need to make. For example, ‘Have you sold your property outside of Israel, or do you continue to work outside of Israel.’ They’re doing this because there’s something called ‘passport aliya’, mostly for the former Soviet Union, in which people get an Israeli passport just for the advantages it brings, but have no plans to live in Israel.
“They’re trying to crack down on that, which I certainly support,” he said. “But they’re cracking down on it in a way that’s going to hurt olim from Western, English-speaking countries, and South Africa is certainly included. We plan to put together a coalition of aliya and diaspora Jewish organisations to fight against this and change it. We plan to lead the way to bring all the relevant organisations and groups together.”
Lipman shared the official population and immigration form, titled “Application for the regulation of a new immigrant status in Israel”. Along with the questions that Lipman mentions, olim will have to say if they are renting out their former home while they are in Israel, if they have a shipment coming to Israel and when it is expected to arrive, if their children have completed their studies abroad, and “any other indicators, if any, demonstrating the closure of the centre of your life abroad”.
They will also be asked if they have a place to live in Israel, whether their children have been registered for schools in Israel, and if they have jobs and bank accounts in Israel. They will be required to provide documents to prove their answers.
Israeli media reports that aliya applicants will also be required to sign the following declaration at the bottom of the form in front of an Israeli consular representative: “I, the undersigned, after being warned that I must tell the truth and that if I don’t do so, I shall be subject to punishment set by statute, hereby declare that I requested immigrant status in Israel in order to settle in Israel immediately and permanently, and to make Israel the centre of my life. I also hereby declare that all the information and details I have provided in my application are complete and correct.”
However, Israel Centre Director Liat Amar Arran said potential olim shouldn’t worry about the new policy or form, it was just an administrative measure to prevent “passport aliya”.
“As long as someone is really planning to make aliya, they don’t need to be concerned. As long as their heart is in the right place and they are ready to make aliya as part of a process, they don’t need to be concerned,” Amar Arran said.
She said the form had already been included in the Israel Centre’s aliya process. However, she knows we’re living in a globalised world where people work remotely, travel often, and don’t always shift their entire lives to Israel. The Israeli government knows and accepts this too, Amar Arran said. “The form just gives more content to show what their life will look like, and what they need in Israel.”
Meanwhile, Kim Kur of the Facebook group “Community Circle Home SA”, which supports travellers during the pandemic, told the SA Jewish Report, “Dov Lipman has shown extraordinary dedication in looking out for the best interests not only of olim, but the families of olim [during the pandemic]. Yad L’Olim’s support, often enabling olim to make their move in the first place, should be respected and rewarded with the ability to visit their families with ease.
“He has fought tirelessly on their behalf, and we are forever grateful for his unwavering focus and efforts,” she said. “He pushed through in spite of the tough stance of the Israeli health ministry. His approach is always respectful of its challenges while remaining strategically assertive and intent on creating a mutually beneficial strategy. I credit him for opening the health ministry’s eyes to what these regulations meant from the other, powerless, side.”