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Israel is ignoring citizenship applications of Jewish converts, defying Supreme Court

The Israeli government is failing to approve the citizenship applications of almost 80 converts to Judaism

The Israeli government is failing to approve the citizenship applications of almost 80 converts to Judaism, nine months after the country's Supreme Court announced its recognition of conversions for the purpose of citizenship.

In March this year, the Israeli Supreme Court approved a landmark decision that conversions to non-Orthodox Jewish denominations would enable foreigners to become eligible to claim Israeli citizenship. So far, however, the Interior Ministry has approved only three citizenship applications.

The law was passed as a response to a petition filed in 2005 by eight temporary residents who converted to Judaism at the hands of the non-Orthodox groups. Over fifteen years later, when the law was finally passed, those eight converts were then granted citizenship.

The Supreme court ruling was meant to imitate and expand to converts the Law of Return, in which any born Jew in any part of the world – regardless of nationality – has the right to move to and settle in Israel.

According to the Israeli news outlet, Haaretz, however, the vast majority of the converts – who are either married or have been married to Israelis and hail from countries in Eastern Europe or South America – have not been so fortunate and are still waiting for their applications to be accepted.

Firstly, the interviews that they are required to undergo at the Interior Ministry are notably longer than the interviews of those who submitted their applications prior to the court ruling. While the interviews used to last for around an hour, they now reportedly carry on for an average of two-and-a-half to three hours.

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Rabbi Andrew Sacks, the director of the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative-Masorti movement in Israel, told the paper that the converts have expressed to him their frustration and suspicions that the interviews are so long because the interviewers doubt the intention of their conversions.

Rabbi Sacks stated that the "slow-walking" of the citizenship process "shows that, not only have things not changed for the better at the Interior Ministry under the new government, but that they are even getting worse."

More proof that of the government's delay of the process can be seen in the fact that out of 30 temporary residents – who converted in the country at the hands of either the Reform or Conservative denominations – only two of them have had their applications approved, with one other rejected.

All of the other applicants are still waiting to hear of the government's decision. That is despite having applied before the court ruling, being given permission to remain in Israel until their results are announced, and most of them already having been interviewed by the Ministry.

Other applicants have it even worse, with most of nearly 50 other converts still waiting to be interviewed and only one having their application approved, so far. That means, overall, only three converts have gained their citizenship nine months after the ruling was passed.

Nicole Maor, the lawyer representing those converts, said that whether the delay is due to "personnel constraints or other reasons … the simple fact is that the Interior Ministry is not implementing a High Court decision in a way that I would consider reasonable."

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