Black Hebrews Ordered to Leave Israel Were Due to Get Residency, Says Ex-minister

In 2015, roughly 100 members of the community asked to be granted legal status, after living for years in Israel without it. Six years later, the authority rejected the applications of 49 of the people on the list and demanded that they leave Israel within 60 days

Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg
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Members of the Hebrew Israelites community protesting in front of the Be’er Sheva District Court in January
Members of the Hebrew Israelites community protesting in front of the Be’er Sheva District Court in January Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

The entire Black Hebrew Israelite community was supposed to be given permanent residency back in 2004, on order of then-Interior Minister Avraham Poraz, the former minister said in an affidavit submitted to a court last week.

He said he didn’t know why members of the group who are now fighting deportation orders didn’t receive residency status at the time.

The affidavit was submitted to the appellate custody tribunal in Be’er Sheva, which is hearing appeals by 49 members of the community the state seeks to deport. Poraz submitted the affidavit at the request of the appellants’ lawyers.

“I have been informed by the leaders of the Hebrew Israelite community that dozens of its members for some reason fell between the cracks and weren’t included in the list of people getting [residency] documents in 2004,” Poraz wrote. “I don’t know how this happened.”

“During my tenure as interior minister, I as the head of the population administration gave an explicit order to grant permanent residency to every member of the community living in Israel,” Poraz’s affidavit said, referring to the agency now known as the Population, Immigration and Border Authority. “This historical mistake in regularizing community members’ status ought to be corrected, in part because of the principle of equality among members of the same community.”

Poraz, who told Haaretz he would be happy to testify in court on the issue if needed, decided in 2003 to grant permanent residency to all Black Hebrew Israelites in Israel, including minors, with the documents issued at a ceremony the following year.

“This is a community that has been among us for a great many years, and nobody would dream of expelling or deporting them,” Poraz told the Knesset at the time. “Therefore, I have decided the time has come to give them the status they deserve.”

The Population Authority says that back in 1999, legal status was granted to all members of the community who had arrived in Israel from the late 1960s onward due to their religious beliefs. That year, the community drafted a list of members and submitted it to the government.

Every member of the community who was on the list and had been in Israel for more than 10 years initially received a work permit, then temporary residency and finally, in 2004, citizenship, the authority said. And as far as it is concerned, anyone who didn’t receive legal status back in 1999 has been living in Israel illegally, including the 49 slated for deportation.

In 2015, roughly 100 members of the community living in Dimona asked the authority to grant them legal status, after living for years in Israel without it. Six years later, the authority rejected the applications of 49 of the people on the list and demanded that they leave Israel within 60 days. Last September, it rejected their appeal and ordered them to leave the country within two weeks. But in October, a court issued an injunction barring their deportation until their case is decided.

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