Is It Possible to Make Aliyah to Israel on the Basis of a DNA Test?
In this article Joshua Pex, an Israeli immigration lawyer and a partner at Israeli law firm Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh, will discuss whether it is possible to make aliyah (to immigrate) to Israel by proving you are a Jew or have Jewish origins via a DNA test.
What Does It Mean to Make Aliyah?
Aliyah is immigration to Israel based on Israel’s Law of Return (1950). This is one of the founding laws of the state of Israel which allows any Jew, child of a Jewish person, or grandchild of a Jewish person to immigrate to Israel and receive Israeli citizenship.
Does a DNA Test Count as Evidence someone being Jewish?
Our clients often ask: “How can we prove that we are Jewish? Will a DNA test result be sufficient evidence to qualify for aliyah?”
The Israeli Ministry of Interior has a detailed procedure regarding what sort of documents an applicant for aliyah is required to present in order to be approved by the state officials. However, there are those who do not have any documents to prove their Jewish origins, yet through a family tradition, they know that they are in fact Jewish. For example, many Russian families lost all documents showing they are Jewish during the Russian civil war or WWII. Other clients also claims their parents or grandparents lost all documents while their country was in a state of chaos. With the recent biomedical and technological advancements, people are able to take a DNA test that details their genetic heritage. There are also specific tests designed to let people know whether they have Jewish roots. There are even DNA tests that will show whether a person is descended from Jewish priests (Cohen / Levi).
A DNA result that proves Jewish origins does not grant the right to make aliyah according to the Law of Return. The Israeli law and the Israeli Ministry of Interior procedures are in rigid consensus on this issue. An aliyah applicant is required to bring documented proof of being Jewish or having Jewish roots within the last two generations. Those who don’t have documents require strong testimonial evidence with a solid explanation for the lack of documents in order to be eligible for aliyah and Israeli citizenship.
The reason the DNA test result is not accepted as evidence for aliyah is in part due to the fact that the Law of Return excludes Jews who seek to make aliyah after having converted to another religion. The Israeli legislature assumes that if a person cannot bring documented evidence to show he or she has Jewish origins, it is probably because their ancestors have left the Jewish religion several generations ago; therefore, the genetic link indicating Jewish roots is not sufficient.
When Can a DNA Test Grant Israeli Citizenship?
A DNA test can be used to receive Israeli citizenship under certain circumstances. Specifically, a DNA test can conclusively prove that a person is the child of an Israeli citizen or of a person that is Jewish. Section 4 of the Law of Citizenship states that anyone born to an Israeli mother or father, whether in Israel or abroad, is an Israeli citizen by birth. This DNA test is done according to the authorization of the Israeli Family Court, and if the result proves that the child is in fact a son or daughter of an Israeli, the court will order the Israeli Ministry of Interior to register the child of the Israeli as an Israeli citizen.
Note that this DNA examination is not intended to show some general connection to Jewish heritage for the purpose of aliyah to Israel, but rather to specifically prove that a person is the child of an Israeli citizen.
If you are looking for answers regarding your aliyah to Israel process in general, aliyah to Israel by a DNA test, or seeking assistance from an Israeli immigration lawyer, please contact us.