German Wife of Israeli Temporarily Denied Entry to Israel, Separated From Toddlers, Despite Embassy OK

Olga Faitelson and her daughter from a previous marriage were detained at the airport; the two were allowed into the country after a day in detention

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Maksim and Olga Faitelson with their twins and Michelle, Olga's daughter from a previous marriage.
Maksim and Olga Faitelson with their twins and Michelle, Olga's daughter from a previous marriage.Credit: Courtesy

A German woman who is married to an Israeli and her daughter from a previous marriage were barred from entering the country, despite having submitted the necessary documents at the request of the Israeli embassy in Berlin, receiving oral authorization to come to Israel. The two were finally allowed to enter after spending a day in detention.

Maksim and Olga Faitelson landed in Israel on Sunday afternoon with their twins and Olga’s teenage daughter. Only the father and the twins, all of whom have Israeli citizenship, were allowed to enter the country. Olga and her daughter Michelle, who are both not Jewish, were denied entry by the Population and Immigration Authority.

The two were stopped at Ben-Gurion International Airport and taken to a holding facility ahead of their deportation to Germany.

Maksim Faitelson, 27, emigrated to Israel from Ukraine nine years ago. He met Olga, 42, while she was visiting the country. He moved to Germany to be with her four years ago and they married last year. Their twins, David and Rachel, were born there and Michelle, 17, lived with them.

A year ago they decided to move to Israel and began working with the Israeli Embassy in Berlin. At the request of embassy officials, they provided numerous documents, which were translated, notarized and apostilled.

The embassy demanded more documents several times; Faitelson says they handed over everything, including written permission from Michelle’s biological father allowing her to move to Israel.

Some months ago, Maksim Faitelson told Haaretz, an embassy representative phoned and told him, “No problem, you can go to Israel, you have permission.” He asked if the family needed official permission and the representative said they did not, and assured them they wouldn’t have problems crossing the border.

Yet at Ben-Gurion, Olga and Michelle were detained. “They said, ‘We have to check something.’ After three hours I found the manager there,” Faitelson recounts. “We talked with her. She said the office had not received any documents and my wife and daughter had no permit to enter Israel. ‘You have to choose where you’re flying to now.’ No explanation, nothing. We aren’t criminals. We didn’t kill anybody. We just want to live here and build our future. After that decision, my wife began to cry. She was hysterical. I didn’t know what to do either.”

Faitelson showed the airport officials all the documents but it didn’t help, he says. On Monday he went to the Population and Immigration office in Netanya, where he says he was told to go through the entire process again in Israel.

“I should come alone, with all the documents; I need to be alone in Israel for her to obtain status,” Faitelson says, describing the encounter. “She gave me the same form requesting the same documents that I submitted to the embassy in Berlin. I said, ‘Are you kidding? Why are you making problems like these for people? My wife and daughter are sitting in jail and I don’t know what to do. I am alone with the babies.’ They didn’t answer, and just left.”

The family moved out of their apartment in Germany, closed their bank accounts there and sent their things to Israel. They even rented an apartment in Netanya and pre-paid two months of rent. “We decided we should live in Israel as a Jewish family,” says Faitelson, adding that they have been living according to Jewish tradition for several years. Olga, who visited Israel several times, wants to convert, he says.

The couple have nowhere to go back to in Germany; their possessions have been sold. Meanwhile, Faitelson says, he had been reduced to running around with two toddlers and suitcases.

Nitsan Ilani, a lawyer with the Yadin Elam law firm which is representing the family on behalf of the Global Aliya organization, commented that the Faitelsons followed the rules set by the Population Authority. “When both spouses are outside the country, they must submit a request to regulate the status of the foreign spouse at the Israeli mission in the country of origin of the foreign spouse,” she explained.

“It is regrettable to see that the Authority is acting contrary to its procedures, and we hope that it will soon come to its senses and approve the mother’s reunion with her toddlers,” Ilani said.

The Population and Immigration Authority responded that Olga Faitelson is married to an Israeli citizen and they have two children together in addition to Olga’s child from a previous marriage. Olga visited Israel as a tourist in recent years. In March the couple asked the representation abroad how Olga and her daughter could move to Israel. “The couple was asked to prepare documents and permission of the daughter’s biological father, but no document has been presented as required, and permission to come to Israel was not given. Despite these facts, last night the family landed in Israel with Olga’s daughter.”

Faitelson showed Haaretz the permit signed by Michelle’s biological father, and said it was submitted to the embassy along with all the other documents – although Olga has full custody of Michelle. He also has a taped conversation with an embassy representative from five months ago, confirming that Olga can move to Israel and saying her daughter could move as well, subject to permission from her biological father.

On Monday afternoon, the Olga and Michelle were released from detention. "The authority was presented with the right paperwork and the entry of the two was approved," said the Population Authority's spokeswoman.

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