The Tel Aviv District Court harshly criticized the Interior Ministry on Monday for refusing to grant citizenship to a Filipina living with an Israeli nine years her junior because it was "a very strange relationship."
In her ruling, Judge Michal Agmon noted that the ministry made no effort to verify its assumption that the relationship must be fictitious; it simply discriminated against the couple based on age. She therefore ordered it to immediately grant Rosa Vistal temporary residency and pay her NIS 40,000 to cover her legal fees.
Vistal, 58, and her partner - Asher Salush, a 49-year-old handyman - applied for citizenship for Vistal two years ago. They submitted all the relevant documents, including letters from friends and relatives certifying that the unmarried couple maintained a genuine spousal relationship. However, the ministry rejected the application, based on both the age difference and the fact that they did not live together: Vistal lived in her employer's home.
Vistal promptly moved in with Salush, and the couple appealed. The appeal was partially accepted, and she received an 18-month visa, which was subsequently extended twice - each time with comments about the age gap. But then, the ministry suddenly demanded that Vistal leave the country in two weeks.
Agmon found that the ministry had made no effort to visit the couple's home or talk with their friends and neighbors to learn about their relationship. Moreover, following a hearing, a ministry employee summarized her impression as follows: "A very strange relationship ... It seems to be based on mutual interests ... sharing the costs of a rented room and help for the Israeli's mother ... and for her, the chance to work and earn money."
"If this is not utterly unreasonable conduct, I don't know what utterly unreasonable conduct is," Agmon wrote in her ruling. "This is discrimination on the basis of age ... The time has come for the Interior Ministry to conduct itself properly and obey its own procedures."
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