Rejecting Deported Wife's Appeal, Israel Says Couple Spent 'Unreasonable Time Apart'

The population authority stated in its decision that the couple had spent “an unreasonable time apart for a married couple”

Tangiz, 58, shows a picture with his wife Elena, 52, June 2018
Tomer Appelbaum

An Israeli and his foreign wife, kept apart by the state because they answered wrong on eight out of dozens of questions about their shared life, will not be allowed to reunite. The Population and Immigration Authority rejected their appeal of its decision to deport Elena, 52, back to Georgia. She and her husband, Tangiz, 58, have known each other for 20 years and married in 2015.

“I felt like they’re killing me without a knife. At our age to remain apart is very hard, and in my situation, even harder,” Tangiz said.

The population authority stated in its decision that the couple had spent “an unreasonable time apart for a married couple.”

Tangiz, a native of Georgia, is a former doctor who worked in the profession for years in the United States and Israel. He immigrated to Israel at 39 and went to work at Sheba Hospital, Tel Hashomer. He was later fired and lost his license due to drug addiction, then returned to Georgia, where he met Elena. After they were married Tangiz returned to Israel, but Elena stayed in Georgia to care for Tangiz’s sick mother.

In Israel, Tangiz was unable to support himself and remained homeless for a long time. He spent time in jail for stealing food, and the welfare authorities defined him as a person “living on the street who cannot be rehabilitated.”

He has had numerous medical problems and has undergone surgery twice in the past year. He was hospitalized recently for six months and the National Insurance Institute determined he was 100 percent disabled. Neither Tangiz nor Elena could afford the money to fly back and forth to see each other, and when they got the money together, they filed a request for Elena to come to Israel to live.

Attorney Michal Pomerantz, who is representing the couple, filed the couple’s appeal against the decision to deport Elena. “The Interior Ministry claims that it is unreasonable for a married couple not to meet for a year and a half, and ignores the circumstances and that afterward they lived together for a year. That’s a reason to stop them from living together? Is it right for the Interior Ministry to decide what is reasonable and what is not for married couples? This is a heartless decision that ignores the daily pain inflicted now on the couple,” Pomerantz said.

After Elena came to Israel in February of 2017, Tangiz’s situation improved immediately. He stopped living on the street, and the couple rented a small apartment in south Tel Aviv. His parole officers wrote that Elena’s presence helped rehabilitate him.

By November 2017, the couple believed that they had collected all the necessary documents for Elena to move to Israel, which they submitted to the Population Authority bureau in Tel Aviv. But the authority later informed Tangiz that Elena was to be deported because of missing documents. The authority also acknowledged that a letter it had sent to them had not been delivered. Elena was arrested and taken to Giv’on Prison for working without a permit, where she remained for over a month, and was then deported.

When the appeal was filed, the authority held a series of interviews to determine the status of their relationship. Out of 70 questions, they answered 62 correctly.