Discharged Soldiers Petition Court to Gain Israeli Citizenship

Ministry refused request because they aren't Jewish

Three recently demobilized soldiers yesterday asked the High Court of Justice to order the Interior Ministry to grant them citizenship under the Citizenship Law.

The three young women, whose petition was joined by MK Roman Bronfman (Meretz-Democratic Choice), noted that by law, anyone who has served in the Israel Defense Forces is automatically entitled to citizenship upon demobilization. The head of the ministry's Population Registry, Herzl Gedj, even confirmed in a letter to Bronfman that "a soldier who served in the IDF is entitled to receive citizenship immediately upon his demobilization." However, the petition claims, the ministry refused to grant their request, because all three are non-Jewish.

The three women, Alice Levonsky, Tikva Rein and Ludmilla Rolik, all came to Israel with a parent who is non-Jewish according to halakha (Jewish law) but was nevertheless entitled to citizenship under the Law of Return.

Bronfman said that the Interior Ministry has refused to release any data on how many people in similar situations have applied for citizenship and how many of their applications have been accepted. However, he said, Defense Ministry data shows that there are 600 to 700 children of immigrants currently serving in the IDF who do not have Israeli citizenship, which indicates that there are probably thousands of other young men and women in a similar situation who have already completed their army service. Most came to Israel with a non-Jewish parent who was entitled to immigrate because he or she was the grandchild of a Jew.

Ludmilla Rolik's case is typical. Rolik, 20, moved to Israel four and half years ago from the Ukraine with her father, who was entitled to citizenship because his grandfather was Jewish. A year after she arrived, she received a draft notice from the IDF, and responded willingly. "I wanted to be drafted," she said. "I want to live in Israel and fulfill all my obligations toward the state."

Rolik spent her service in the military police, and upon completing her term, she applied to the Interior Ministry for citizenship - but was turned down.

"It's humiliating and insulting," said Rolik. "I'm a citizen when it comes to the obligations, like military service or paying taxes on my work, but I'm a second-class citizen when it comes to my rights. If I can't be a citizen with equal rights in this country, what future will my children have?"

The petition was also joined by Michael Gurelkin, a soldier currently serving in a combat engineering unit in the territories who had a slightly different complaint. Gurelkin asked the Interior Ministry to release him from the obligation of giving up his previous citizenship in order to obtain Israeli citizenship, arguing that doing so entails financial outlays that he cannot afford as a soldier doing his compulsory service.