Status in Israel for foreign spouses who are Messianic Jews or Messianic Christians
Many foreign spouses seeking status in Israel encounter various difficulties due to being affiliated with congregations of Messianic Jews or Messianic Christians. Among other issues, this is due to concerns of the Messianic couple engaging in missionary activity in Israel. What do the law and court rulings assert in this matter? Attorney Joshua Pex, an expert in the field of immigration to Israel, will elaborate on this subject in this article.
The law firm of Cohen, Decker, Pex, Brosh, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, specializes in the field of Israel immigration law. Our firm prides itself with extensive experience in accompanying couples throughout the legalization process of foreign spouses, in addition to representing them before all administrative and legal courts.
The Ministry of Interior tends to evade legalizing the status of Messianic spouses
As part of legalizing the status of foreign spouses, the Ministry reviews their compliance with various conditions set forth in the procedures. This includes a review of whether criminal history or security threat regarding the couple is absent, whether a common center of life exists in Israel and the sincerity of the marital relationship. Relationship sincerity is examined during the course of comprehensive interviews held with the couple.
While the above criteria do not seem to relate to the religious background of the couple, in practice this is an issue that presents itself in many status legalization proceedings. And in the broader context of legalizing the status of spouses, the issue eligibility for Jewish status of Jews who have converted to other religions, particularly Christianity, or Jews affiliated with the reform or conservative factions of Judaism, often presents itself before the Ministry of Interior.
While this is not an official and explicit policy, requests to legalize the status of Jewish or Messianic Christian spouses are often rejected, based on an impression of the insincerity of the marital relationship, or other alleged problems. Examining the Ministry of the Interior’s reasons for rejecting such requests reveals, that the Ministry often believes that the couple’s actual purpose is to engage in missionary activity and to promote the spread of Christianity in Israel.
The position of the courts on the subject
The Danor ruling, given by the Jerusalem Administrative Court, concerned the case of a married couple, namely an Israeli man and his US citizen wife. The US citizen, born to a Messianic Jewish father and a Christian mother, led a Messianic Jewish faction lifestyle, as did her Israeli spouse, born and raised in Israel. The couple married in Canada, and when they sought to legalize the wife’s marital status in Israel, they encountered refusal by the Ministry of Interior. The reason for the refusal was that the couple’s alleged intention to spread Christianity as part of their affiliation to a Messianic Jewish congregation “Glory of Jesus”.
The court explicitly ruled that this was an unlawful discrimination in the context of section 7 of the Citizenship Law, which allows for the legalization of the status of married couples. The court emphasized that the couple had presented solid evidence of the sincerity of their relationship. The couple’s petition was granted and the court overturned the decision to refuse legalization of status. It was determined that the spouse should be given a residence permit in Israel and to start a gradual process.
In another case that reached the Ministry of Interior’s Court of Appeals, a female Russian citizen married an Israeli man who made Aliyah to Israel from Russia by virtue of the law of return. The couple had two children in Israel. During the status legalization proceedings of the spouse, the court unexpectedly determined that the husband was a member of another religion, affiliated with a Messianic congregation before immigrating to Israel. This is after almost 15 years had passed since the husband’s immigration, who has meanwhile settled in Israel, served full military service in a combat unit and started a family.
In accordance with the aforementioned Danor ruling, it was determined that the procedure regarding the legalization status of the wife should be continued, the sincerity of the relationship and other criteria should be examined and the woman’s naturalization process should proceed – without attaching any importance to the religious faith of the couple. This ruling illustrates to what extent the religious background in such cases should not preclude the legalization of status, even if the Interior Ministry officials believe otherwise.
Please contact an attorney who specializes in legalizing the status of spouses and immigration to Israel
Despite the important rulings detailed by us above, we are witnessing many cases in which Messianic couples encounter difficulties in status legalization proceedings before the Ministry of Interior. The law firm of Cohen, Decker, Pex, Brosh, specializes in regulating the status of spouses in Israel, including spouses affiliated with the Messianic congregations. We will be happy to provide you with legal advice and assistance, based on our extensive experience, on any issue that presents itself in this context. You may contact us by means of the phone numbers and email address listed below.