The Bill to Strengthen the Connection Between Diaspora Jewry and the State of Israel

Should Jews from around the world always be able to enter Israel? Even, say, during a pandemic?

Former MK Yomtob Kalfon (Yamina) proposed a bill that would enshrine such a right in Israeli law. Originally introduced in February, the bill was expected to be discussed in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, May 15th. This did not come to pass, however, as MK Kalfon’s tenure in the Knesset abruptly ended (more on that below). 

The Bill to Strengthen the Connection Between Diaspora Jewry and the State of Israel (2022) proposed creating a special “Diaspora Jewry Visa” to be issued by the Ministry of Interior, which would enable a stay of up to three years. The bill includes very limited exceptions, such as threats to national security and public order. 

The text of the bill describes it’s context and purpose:

For Diaspora Jews and those eligible under the Law of Return who wish to visit and reside in Israel without the intention of permanent settlement or immigration, there is currently no specific visa. The lack of such a visa was significantly felt with the spread of the coronavirus and the ban on non-Israeli citizens entering Israel. Many Diaspora Jews have a strong connection to Israel, including frequent visits to the country. Some of them have children serving as lone soldiers in the IDF, or have family and property. Closing the borders to them created a sense of alienation, because for the first time since the establishment of the state, although they were eligible for Return, the entry gates to Israel were closed to them. In order to restore a sense of belonging to Diaspora Jewry, and to prevent future cases in which they might be barred from entering Israel for any reason, it is suggested to establish that those eligible for Return who are not Israeli citizens be eligible to receive a Diaspora Jewry Visa which would allow entry to Israel at any time.

A few paragraphs later, the bill summarizes its message:

Receiving this document will reinforce and stress the affinity and connection between Diaspora Jewry and Israel, and will ease Diaspora Jews in visiting Israel as part of a conception of the State of Israel as the home and nation-state of the entire Jewish people.

Although the bill was expected to be discussed on Sunday, just two days prior, Minister of Religious Services Matan Kahana (Yamina) resigned from his ministerial role in order to serve as an official member of the Knesset. Minister Kahana’s return to the chamber means that the Knesset tenure of MK Kalfon — who assumed his post via the “Norwegian Law” when other party members left the Knesset to become ministers — has come to an end. Whether or not another MK adopts the legislation proposed by now-former MK Kalfon remains to be seen.