The Hebrew Israelites community has been in Israel since the end of the 1970s, but despite the long time and becoming more established in the country, the status of the nearly 3,000 members is still not resolved. The Hebrew Israelites are concentrated mostly in the towns of Dimona, Arad and Mitzpe Ramon, and since they do not consider themselves as Jews (and are not recognized as such by the Law of Return), they are not eligible for citizenship under the existing law. However, during the years the various Ministers of the Interior have reached agreements with the community members regarding their residence, with the result being that there are different statuses within the community. A resolution from 2003 granted permanent residence to those members of the community who were in Israel at the time. An additional resolution by Minister Gideon Saar granted citizenship to those who served in the army. However, beside these two groups there are those who remained devoid of any legal status, whether because they were not included in the list of permanent residents or because they were not staying in Israel at the time.
In a meeting held early in December, the Knesset Committee for Distributive Justice and Social Equality headed by MK Miki Zohar discussed the status of the community members. Participants included representatives of the community and of the Ministry of the Interior. Beside specific problems, speakers brought up the fact that those members of the community who are interested in Israeli citizenship are required to give up their American citizenship. At the end of the meeting, MK Zohar called on Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri to regularize right away the status of 64 stateless persons from the Hebrew Israelite community in Dimona, as well as grant citizenship to permanent residents without requiring them to waive their American citizenship.
Written by Avital Kaplan and Lynn Safadi, Hebrew Israelites Team