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High Court withdraws emerging communities aliyah petition

CM 01/02/2021

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A petition to the High Court of Justice, which addressed the eligibility of Jews from so-called emerging Jewish communities in the Diaspora to make aliyah, was withdrawn Monday without the substantive issue being resolved.
The case was filed by Masorti Olami, the world association of the Masorti (Conservative) movement on behalf of Yosef Kibita, a member of the Abayudaya community of Jewish converts in Uganda.
The Abayudaya community in Uganda, numbering approximately 2,000 people today according to the Masorti movement, adopted Judaism in the early 20th century, after their leader, having been exposed to the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament by Christian missionaries chose to be Jewish.
Most members formally converted through the US Conservative Movement between 2002 and 2010, and were recognized as a Jewish community by the Jewish Agency in 2009.
Kibita, who formally converted in 2008, has been living in Israel for close to three years and currently resides at Kibbutz Ketura.
A High Court ruling in 2002, and criteria subsequently published by the Interior Ministry, determined that a community with infrastructure and recognized by one of the major Jewish denominations, or the Jewish Agency, should be eligible for recognition under the Law of Return.
Kibita applied to make aliyah some two years ago but the Interior Ministry rejected his request, saying that since the Masorti movement only formally recognized the Abayudaya community in 2009 and Kibita converted in 2008 his conversion for the purposes of aliyah is not valid.
In Monday’s hearing, Judge Menny Mazuz said that the fact that Kibita did indeed convert before the Masorti movement formally recognized the Abayudaya community meant that evaluating the substantive issue of the community’s eligibility for aliyah would not be possible.

For the court to address the issue of the validity of claims to aliyah from emerging communities itself, Mazuz recommended that Kibita return to Uganda, undergo a further conversion process, and then refile his request for aliyah.
If the Interior Ministry again rejects his request then the case could be refiled.
This process could take a significant amount of time so Mazuz said that in order for Kibita to revisit his own specific request for aliyah he could undergo an additional conversion process with any recognized Jewish community abroad and make aliyah once his conversion is approved in that manner.
Mazuz noted at the beginning of the hearing that “the state is not thrilled with this idea” of Jews from emerging communities making aliyah, but said that “at one stage or another there will be no escape clarifying the issue.”
The attorney for the Masorti movement representing Kibita in court decided to withdraw the petition and the Interior Ministry said it would extend Kibita’s current visa while he waits to make a decision on his future.
The Interior Ministry is concerned that conversions abroad – particularly in developing countries – not be used as a tool to abuse the right of return for the purposes of citizenship in Israel.
In a January 2018 Knesset committee hearing, Interior Ministry official Amos Arbel put it less gently, stating: “Do you want half of Africa here?” in relation to another member of the Abayudaya community who was seeking a student visa to study in Israel.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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