JERUSALEM (Jan. 7)
Four Christian families from the Soviet Union were welcomed as immigrants in Israel and given the assistance and benefits that Jewish immigrants are entitled to, a Haifa local newspaper reported Friday.
The report was confirmed by the Interior Ministry, which called the incident a mistake and indicated the Soviets eventually will have to leave.
The Jewish Agency showed no surprise at the news and said that such things have happened before.
The newspaper quoted 63-year-old Pyotr Tropimov, a member of the first of the families to arrive here.
“We are a family of 19, and we asked for an emigration visa to Israel because the Soviet authorities would not give us one for the United States,” he explained.
“A friend in Beersheba sent us an invitation to come to Israel, and that’s how we received the visa,” he said.
“We thought that we would be thrown out, but we were nicely received,” Tropimov added.
According to the article, the family members were surprised by the warm welcome they got at Ben-Gurion Airport, the apartments allocated to them in Haifa and the financial support.
On that basis, they wrote to relatives in the Soviet Union, who soon joined them.
Tropimov said the families are Catholic and do not intend to convert to Judaism.
Interior Ministry spokeswoman Dvora Ellison said the ministry was surprised to learn of the incident. She said “the immigration status will be negated from anyone who is not entitled to it.”
Under the Law of Return, citizenship on arrival is reserved exclusively for Jews, who are defined as someone born of a Jewish mother or converted.
According to the Interior Ministry spokeswoman, the four Soviet families will get tourist visas and temporary work permits, but “after a period of time, they will have to find themselves another corner in the world.”