Is Israel experiencing a new type of identity theft? That is not the way the Israeli High Court of Justice described it (HCJ 7546/12, March 13, 2014), but when being Jewish is the instant route to Israeli citizenship and new immigrant benefits, being Jewish might be the way to go.
A Lithuanian woman arrived in Israel with her husband, daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren on a tourist visa. She applied for new immigrant visas for the whole family, based on her claim that she is Jewish and entitled to this under Israel’s Law of Return. As proof, she presented a judgment from a Lithuanian court, handed down on May 13, 1997, which states that the court believes that although her current name was Wanda K___, she was born to Jewish parents named Michael and Golda Bensman, in 1941.
This was the only proof presented to the Israeli Ministry of Interior and they didn’t find it adequate. They asked to read the testimony and see the evidence presented to the Lithuanian court, but Wanda/Bayla refused to supply this. The Israeli Ministry of Interior did some investigative work and discovered a witness, who presented an entirely different story of Wanda/Bayla’s parents.
The Petitioner claims that the Lithuanian judgment is adequate proof of her Jewishness and that she has met the burden of proof. The High Court of Justice disagreed and denied her petition.
The HCJ stated that Section 1 of the Law of Return does contain the general principle that every Jew is entitled to emigrate to Israel and that the Minister of Interior is authorized to carry out this law. In previous cases the High Court of Justice has ruled that a foreign judgment stating that someone is a Jew is not necessarily adequate administrative proof of that person’s Jewishness and that the Minister of Interior is acting reasonably in this case and within the bounds of its authority in demanding additional proof beyond the foreign judgment. The High Court of Justice denied the woman’s petition and has given the family 45 days to prepare for their return to Lithuania.
It is hard to say whether the petitioner is Jewish or simply stealing an identity because life in Israel appears more economically beneficial than life in Lithuania. This is not unlike US immigration law situations. Israel has become a country of refuge for some and this forces the Israeli authorities to contend with new types of immigration claims and challenges, which the Law of Return most likely did not anticipate.
Looking for a Prada bag or Jimmy Choo shoes; head to Kikar Hamedina, Tel Aviv’s Rodeo Drive, where impossibly expensive stores line a unique circular park. Iconic and always fun for a walk and break from Tel Aviv’s mayhem, Kikar Hamedina has been a charming circle of wealth for 4o years. The stores occupy the lower levels of distinctive low buildings. Over a year ago, this park was rezoned for high rises and a small mall. The residents rightly objected that this would damage their property values and claimed compensation. Although the plan to build the mall was dropped, Tel Aviv still intends on building three high rise towers in the midst of Kikar Hamedina’s circular park. Globes reported (http://http://www NULL.globes NULL.co NULL.il/en/article-kikar-hamedina-residents-appeal-compensation-rejection-1000921669)that residents were denied their claims for compensation and are appealing to the Tel Aviv Regional Planning and Building Commission.
I can only hope that they get every shekel of compensation. The residents are losing their views, fresh air and instead getting additional traffic, while Tel Aviv is making another huge mistake; tampering with an iconic piece of the city. There is something inherently wrong with city planning, when people live on a beautiful circle for nearly 40 years, only to have the park rezoned and their neighborhood completely transformed. There’s no doubt, housing is scarce in Tel Aviv, but that doesn’t justify rezoning a much needed green area. Just a few blocks away, the IDF will be vacating the Kirya (http://http://www NULL.globes NULL.co NULL.il/en/article-idf-prepares-to-vacate-city-center-base-1000915160)and the area will be developed. Kikar Hamedina should be left as it is and the park enhanced, rather than destroyed. This is another of those Israeli zoning moments, which make real estate buyers lose faith in the system. Unfortunately, even when your Israeli lawyer checks zoning at the time of a purchase, there is no guarantee that the zoning won’t be capriciously changed later, when there is space, opportunity and money to be made.
Israel’s business newspaper, Globes, reported yesterday that the Netanya Local Planning and Building Commission approved a zoning plan, which would enable the city to build up to 50,000 more apartments by 2035. This could potentially increase Netanya’s population by 100,000 people to 320,000. In addition to residential housing, the zoning plan also calls for more commercial and office space. This zoning plan still needs the approval of the district zoning commission and if it is approved, the goal would be to shorten the time for approval of specific projects that meet the criteria of the zoning plan. As a former resident of Netanya, I would love to see this come to fruition, though soon we may not recognize Netanya as we drive past it on the highway. Click here for the full Hebrew article in Globes (http://www NULL.globes NULL.co NULL.il/news/article NULL.aspx?did=1000921187#FromSearchPage).