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De facto adoption and the Right of Return in Israel


Michael Decker

Does de facto adoption of a non-Jewish child by a family entitled to make Aliyah allow the adoptee to immigrate to Israel as an adult and obtain Israeli citizenship? Our firm specializes in immigration to Israel and Aliyah for families entitled to the Right of Return. In this article, attorney Michael Decker, a partner at the Israeli law firm of Cohen, Decker, Pex, Brosh, will review the rights of a de-facto adoptee in accordance with the provisions of the Law of Return (1950) and the rulings of the Israeli Supreme Court. The article will examine whether de facto adoption will entitle the “adoptee” to the status of descendant to Jews, which would provide the right to Aliyah and Israeli citizenship.

What is de facto adoption?

De facto acts, as opposed to de jure acts, take place without engaging the legally mandated process. De facto adoption take place in practice, not according to the relevant laws and procedures in the country of origin. In most countries, formal adoption requires the approval of the relevant court. In Israel, the relevant jurisdiction to confirm an adoption as legal is the Family Court.

Sometimes, the de facto “adoptee” will have documents on which the “adopted parents” are listed. Many registries do not require verification to list the de facto adopters as the adoptee’s parents. The adopted child may have the adopters’ surname on such official documents as their birth certificate, school registry and graduation, university certificates, official army ID, etc. However, without having undergone a formal adoption process, the adoption is only de facto – “in practice”.

De facto adoption in Israel’s legal practice:

The question of whether de facto adoption is equal to legal adoption was reviewed by Israel’s supreme court. The judgment was given in HCJ 5020/08, Edward Poltarsky v. State of Israel, September 12, 2013.

 Edward Poltarsky was never formally adopted (that is, no legal proceedings had ever been held in an official court). However, the Jewish adopting family may have believed that the relevant administrative procedures had taken place. The de facto adoptee had official documents attesting that he was raised by his Jewish adoptive father. He considered the adopter to be his parent in every respect, and had no connection with his biological father.

The court ruling on the subject and future perspectives:

De facto adoptionIsrael’s supreme court rejected Poltarsky’s petition. The primary reason was due to the supposed de-facto adoption never being brought up before the Israeli immigration office during the immigration process. The Israeli Ministry of the Interior found out about the adoption only as the HJC case progressed. In addition, the judgment took into account various indications that the petitioners were not arguing in good faith. In particular, the family previously claimed that the adoption was legally and duly formalized.

In her dissenting opinion, Supreme Justice Dafna Erez Barak argued that it would be appropriate to return the matter to the Ministry of Interior. The MoI could reconsider whether the petitioner should be recognized as a de facto adoptee. In view of that, it would be possible for him to be granted an Oleh visa and Israeli citizenship.

It should be noted that the judgment did not rule out the possibility that de facto adoption might be recognized in the future, under certain circumstances, and the adoptee be granted status under the Law of Return. The question has not been decided in the judgement and is not yet settled by Israeli law.

In conclusion:

If you want to ensure your adopted child has the right to immigrate to Israel as an adult, legal adoption is the best course of action. Naturally, if you are planning to make Aliyah while your adoptee is a minor, they will be entitled to accompany you. The state of Israel has yet to recognize de facto adoption as entitling the adoptee to the right of return. However, the Poltarsky ruling does leave the possibility open for future adult adoptees.

In light of the above, if the prospective Oleh is an adult (and therefore can no longer be officially adopted and immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return, in accordance with relevant Interior Ministry regulations), but can prove they were de facto adopted by a Jewish family, or a family entitled to the right of return as descendants of Jews, it would be possible to submit an Aliyah application on this basis. The application would have to include concrete proof and evidence of the adoption. The applicant would have to demonstrate the adoptive parents did in fact raised them as their own. They would also have to explain why the adoption process was never legally certified.

How does a de-jure (legally adopted) adoptee receive status in Israel?

The Population and Immigration Authority has a special procedure for granting status to a person adopted by a family entitled to return to Israel as Jews or descendants of Jews. For the purposes of eligibility for immigration, the adoption documents must be verified and translated by a notary public. In addition, the adoptee must prove that the adoption was both de jure and de facto – in theory and in practice. They would have to present evidence that the adoptive parents both legally adopted and actually raised them as minors. The evidence would have to demonstrate the adoption was not carried out solely for the purpose of receiving the right to immigrate to Israel.

Contact our Aliyah specialist attorneys.

Our law firm specializes in legal questions related to immigration to Israel. If you encounter difficulties with the Ministry of the Interior – call to arrange an appointment at our law firm in Jerusalem and Petakh Tikvah, Cohen, Decker, Pex, Brosh. We’ll be happy to provide advice and legal assistance in any matter connected with immigration to Israel.

De facto adoption and the Right of Return in Israelייעוץ משפטי 03-3724722, 055-9781688 

רחוב עמל 37 פתח תקווה 4951337 ישראל,


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