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Jerusalem, Israel, Sept. 14, 2018 – Yesterday, Thursday, September 13, 2018, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the Population and Immigration Authority must reexamine the petition for residency status in the case of a foreign citizen who was the victim of domestic abuse by her Israeli husband. The couple were married for 2.5 years and had a child together before their separation due to the abuse of the wife and their child (the wife has lived legally in Israel since 2005). The Population and Immigration Authority had previously turned down her request to remain in Israel and raise her child, an Israeli citizen. The committee’s reasoning included that the woman had no other family in Israel, and that it would be in the child’s best interests not to remain in the same country as the abusive husband. The woman was represented by Adv Nicole Maor, Director of the Israel Religious Action Center’s Legal Aid Center for Olim (LACO).

A foreign national who marries an Israeli citizen automatically begins the naturalization process, which takes years. If the marriage is dissolved, the process stops. Ten years ago, LACO was actively involved in the formulation of a regulation to protect victims of domestic violence. This regulation stipulated that if the marriage were dissolved due to domestic abuse, the process of naturalization would not immediately end, but would be positively considered by an inter-departmental humanitarian committee, especially if an Israeli child were involved. In the last few years, this committee has back-tracked on its commitment to battered women and handed down more and more decisions ordering them to leave the country, together with their Israeli children, claiming that the issue of domestic violence is no longer relevant once the decision is made that the matter is to be heard by the committee.

The Legal Aid Center for Olim (LACO) has a strong history of representing foreign women who are victims of domestic abuse in their fight for residency status in Israel. Every year approximately 50 women turn to LACO for help in similar cases.

Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel explained his decision by emphasizing that the purpose of the violence regulation was to protect victims of domestic abuse, and to encourage them to report and press charges against their abusers. Judge Hendel stated: “The position of the [Population] Authority which states that the violence will automatically lead to an examination by the inter-departmental committee, but once the door is opened it [the violence] will not carry weight, raises difficulties. It is not reasonable to accept the possibility by which the open entrance to the committee leads the petitioner to a dead end.” He added that: “the welfare of the child should add to the considerations of the bond [to Israel] and the violence and reinforce the inclination to resolve the status of the foreign parent.”

Supreme Court Justice Daphne Barak-Erez added that the committee needs to evaluate the child’s best interests, including their rights in Israel versus the foreign country. She reinforced Justice Hendel, stating: “there is space to implement the regulations in a way that will encourage women not be forced to endure living conditions which are harmful to their body and soul, and possibly even – God forbid – endanger their lives.”

Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center, stated: “This is a very important ruling that orders the Population Authority to operate in a much more resolved manner in order to protect victims of domestic abuse and to encourage them to leave their abusive husbands without fear of losing their legal status in Israel. Paving the way to victory in our multiple other cases of immigrant women who are victims of domestic abuse. This woman’s naturalization process was stopped abruptly, despite her circumstances – a stoplight has more human kindness than the Population Authority did in their treatment of this case. Should Israel, the Jewish homeland, act more like the battering husband, or demonstrate compassion and ensure justice for the weak? This ruling is revolutionary because our legal team was able to convince the Court to look at the naturalization process with a human eye, and act with a human heart, just as we should expect of the Jewish state.”

The Legal Aid Center for Olim (LACO) was established in 1992 to enable all new immigrants coming to Israel under the Right of Return to enjoy equal rights. LACO helps immigrants (olim) who encounter a hostile Israeli bureaucracy secure their rights by giving them access to some of the best immigration lawyers in the country through services such as a hotline, legal advice, and full legal representation.

The Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) is the leading civil and human rights organization addressing issues of religion and state in Israel. IRAC strives for freedom of religion and conscience, human equality, social justice, religious tolerance and individual rights.  www.irac.org