Aliyah is the term for the process of when Jews immigrate to Israel. The primary law of immigration to Israel is known as the Law of Return. This law enables anyone who can prove they have at least one Jewish grandparent to immigrate to Israel and to immediately become an Israeli citizen. The one caveat to the law is where one has converted to another religion. According to a 1989 Israeli Supreme Court case, a Messianic Jew is one who has converted to another religion, and thus is not entitled to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return. Regardless of the decision, thousands of Messianic Jews have immigrated to Israel. Most of the time immigration authorities are unaware of theirs or anyone else’s faith, for that matter.
From North America most Jews who immigrate to Israel go through an organization called Nefesh B’Nefesh (soul by soul), where the application is initiated in North America and where the organization assists the applicant to move to Israel. Several years ago Nefesh B’Nefesh instituted a policy that when someone applies for immigration through them, the agency asks whether the Jewish applicant is Messianic. If so, they would not approve the application. However, for those who sought to immigrate to Israel while in Israel, they would apply for immigration directly to the Ministry of Interior. Most Messianic Jews immigrated in this manner, including us.
Just two weeks ago, the situation changed. It actually occurred the very day one of my law partners accompanied a Messianic Jew to the Ministry of Interior to submit their application for Aliyah. While waiting for the interview, a Ministry of Interior clerk posted a large sign on the wall that said the Ministry would no longer take applications for Aliyah. Rather, the applicant was directed to the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem. This was a stunning and unprecedented development. My law partner confronted the manager of the local office and demanded the applicant’s case be considered there. The manager said they no longer had the authority to receive the application, but they agreed to review it to make sure all the paperwork was there. While discussing the application, the clerk said the Jewish Agency promised that cases of Aliyah would be decided in two weeks (instead of the normal six weeks or more). The clerk also said the motivation behind the change was to flesh out Messianic Jews through the interview process. These changes happen to coincide with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent appointment of Aryeh Deri, an ultra-Orthodox rabbi and convicted felon, to the Minister of the Interior. He is a well-known antagonist to Messianic Jews.
Of course, these changes also occurred concurrently with the flap over the Mike Bickle endorsement of Ted Cruz for Republican Presidential nominee. The report claimed that Mike Bickle made statements about God using the Holocaust as a form of judgment against the Jewish people. Naturally, in Israel’s media connections were made between Mike Bickle and Messianic Jews because he is supportive of Messianic Jews. Just to clarify, I don’t know Mike Bickle personally. However, I am familiar with him. Generally, he is very supportive of Israel and the Jewish people. But his theology, shared by others in Evangelical Christendom, sees some type of future holocaust of the Jews, as prophesied in the Bible. More importantly, however, his goal is to rescue Jews not harm them. Additionally, adding insult to injury for the Messianic Jewish movement here, the last of the Oregon revolutionary holdouts proclaimed himself a Messianic Jew. Just what we needed. He’s not Jewish, however. But this type of publicity makes crackdowns against Messianic Jews in Israel seem sensible.
It’s too early to tell exactly what will happen to Aliyah cases filed in Israel. But clearly the situation has changed and for the worse. If you know of a Messianic Jew planning on making Aliyah, please have him/her contact us.