More than 300 lecturers and doctoral students sent on Tuesday letters to Israel’s President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar to protest the Immigration Authority’s decision not to extend a foreign student’s visa. In its decision, the Immigration Authority said it feared the student – who asked to extend his visa so he can finish his doctorate, might “strike down roots” in Israel.
Koji Yamashiro finished his B.A. and M.A. in the Department of Jewish Thought in Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, and won a presidential scholarship for his doctoral studies. Yamashiro’s research focuses on monotheistic religions.
The Immigration Authority said it is concerned that Yamashiro, who has been in Israel for eight years, will not want to leave the country once he is completes his studies. A German doctoral student has in the past been forced to stop his studies at the Department of Jewish Thought after his visa was not extended.
The Hebrew University also sent a letter requesting Yamashiro’s visa be extended, saying that his research enriches the field and even stated that Yamashiro “agreed to sign a document committing to not staying in Israel.”
Yamashiro told Haaretz in fluent Hebrew that even though he is not Jewish, he became interested in Kabbalah. “I read Gershom Scholem’s books and was drawn to this world,” he said.
In his research, Yamashiro looks into the myth of the Primordial Man in Abrahamic religions. “There is no access to material in my field like the there is in Israel,” he said, adding that he has written the Interior Ministry twice to inform them that he intends to leave Israel once he completes his studies.
In their letter, the academics write that “we see the Interior Ministry’s decision as damaging to our academic activity and to the academic community in Israel in general, at a time when there are more and more voices around the world calling for an academic boycott on Israeli researchers.”
The Immigration Authority told Haaretz that “the issue will be reexamined by Immigration Authority head Amnon Ben Ami.”
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