Following a motion for an urgent discussion submitted by MK Nachman Shai (Israel Labor Party), the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs held a debate Tuesday on the difficulties in absorbing young Jews who have taken part in educational programs in Israel.
Committee Chairman Yoel Razvozov said that from what he has seen ”on the ground,” many youngsters who participate in programs such as ”Masa” and ”Taglit-Birthright” find it difficult to obtain work or study permits because they have a hard time proving they are Jewish.
MK Shai opened the meeting by saying that the goal of programs such as ”Masa” and ”Taglit-Birthright” is to connect the participants with Israel and see to it that they have a significant experience during their stay the country. The problem begins, he said, ”when these programs succeed too much” and the youngsters express a desire to remain in Israel for another few months in order to work, study or enhance their experience. At this point, MK Shai noted, the youngsters are asked to prove that they are Jewish, as people who are not eligible to make aliyah according to the Law of Return are not granted temporary work or study permits.
This situation is absurd, MK Shai said, ”the programs offer these youngsters a bonding and accepting experience, but the process in which they have to prove they are Jewish creates the opposite experience – rejection.”
Amos Arbel, director of Population Registration and Status Department in the Ministry of the Interior, said it is the duty of the programs to verify that the participants are Jewish. ”The problem begins when programs that bring people to Israel do so without checking in advance to see that they are eligible to live in Israel. I grant status according to the law. Those who are eligible to live in Israel according to the Law of Return without an oleh (new immigrant) status are permitted to remain in Israel.
Noah Bauer of Taglit said this demand was unreasonable because the participants are not familiar with the bureaucratic process in Israel. ”We bring 40,000 people a year; we try to bring people who are distanced from the Jewish world because of assimilation. You cannot ask for all of these things because the participants have no idea what is going on here.”
MK Razvozov concluded the meeting by calling on Interior Minister Gideon Sa`ar to implement a new regulation that would allow the participants of programs such as ”Masa” and ”Taglit” to extend their stay in Israel and receive a work permit (B-1) for a period of six months. This, the committee chairman said, would allow them to become familiar with Israeli culture and also give them time to present the paperwork required in order to prove that the Law of Return applies to them.