In a direct challenge to Ministry of Interior policy, an Israeli court of appeals has ruled in favor of a Messianic couple in a family reunification case.
The couple, of whom one spouse is Israeli and the other a foreign national, appealed a Ministry of Interior decision to reject the foreign spouse’s request for citizenship. The request was denied on account of the spouse’s faith, something not unusual in many cases involving Messianics’ applications for Israeli citizenship.
The Ministry of Interior (MOI) went further and used the original application to open an investigation into the Israeli spouse’s citizenship — this after 15 years of citizenship, living in Israel and serving in the Israeli army. The MOI claimed the spouse lied on his immigration application since he was already a Messianic at the time.
The MOI even called for investigations into the citizenship of the Israeli’s spouse’s extended family, including his mother and a brother.
The couple, represented by Adv. Shira Schwartz-Meirman from Yehuda Raveh & Co. Law Offices, filed an appeal saying that the MOI’s conduct in this case was illegal and contrary to Israeli citizens’ rights of equality and freedom of religion.
In somewhat expected fashion, the MOI refused to submit a response to the appeal.
The plaintiffs asked the court to rule on the matter anyway and requested damages for anguish caused by the investigation.
On Feb. 22 the court ruled in the couple’s favor:
- The likelihood that the Ministry of Interior will be able to revoke the Israeli spouse’s citizenship more than 10 years after immigrating to Israel is negligible.
- The MOI cannot give any weight to religious beliefs when conducting an interview for family reunification requests.
- Expenses in the amount of 8,000 shekels ($2,000) — a relatively high amount in such cases — were ordered in favor of the appellants.
The positive ruling is expected to influence other cases and will hopefully give the MOI pause before it pursues other investigations against Messianic believers.