Participants of identity-based trips to Israel like Birthright and Masa will now be able to extend their trips for up to six months without having to prove their Jewish identity, reported JTA. On Monday, Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri approved these new measures.
Prior to the signing of the regulations, students who wanted to extend their stay were required to provide documentary proof of their Jewishness, such as a letter from a community rabbi or their parents’ Jewish marriage contract, which sometimes is difficult for the participants. The identity programs do not require such documentation.
In December 2015, Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai attempted to address this problem—what Haaretz described having produced “scores of complaints over the years by Birthright and Masa participants whose visa requests have been denied or held up because they were unable to provide sufficient proof of their Jewish roots”—with legislation he submitted to the appropriate Knesset subcommittee. However, the government decided to instead handle the situation administratively by promising a forthcoming resolution on the visas, the results of which are Deri’s new regulations.
The updated requirements for a work visa extension—rather than necessitating documentation of religious lineage befitting the Law of Return—are far more lax. According to the specifications listed on Birthright’s website, one need only “identify as Jewish and [be] recognized as such by their local community or by one of the recognized denominations of Judaism.” Once approval for Birthright, or another identity trip, is attained subsequent authorization for a visa extension is now all but guaranteed. And as any Birthright alum, who made a friend of “questionable” eligibility on the trip can tell you (and this includes myself) attaining initial approval isn’t that hard.
If Oprah worked for Israel’s Aliyah and Absorption Committee, she would say:“You get a work visa! You get a work visa! You get a work visa! Everybody gets a work visa in Israel!”