Students who visit Israel can extend their stay more easily
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Students who visit Israel can extend their stay more easily

Birthright participants visiting Masada, summer 2012.  (Taglit-Birthright)

Birthright participants visiting Masada, summer 2012. (Taglit-Birthright)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Students from the diaspora who participate in Jewish identity programs such as Birthright and Masa can now extend their stay in Israel by up to six months.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri on Monday approved new regulations allowing the students to gain a residence and work visa without having to prove they are Jewish.

Prior to the regulations, students who wanted to extend their stays were required to provide documented proof of their Jewishness, such as a letter from a community rabbi or their parents’ Jewish marriage contract, which sometimes is difficult for the participants. The identity programs do not require such documentation.

Birthright is a free, 10-day introductory visit to Israel for college students and young people up to age 26. Masa offers over 200 study, internship and volunteer opportunities throughout Israel lasting five to 12 months.

In December, Nachman Shai of the Zionist Union party attempted to introduce legislation to help with the situation, but was told it would be handled with a new resolution by the government.

“This is a breakthrough for young Jews who seek to connect to the Israeli community,” Shai said in a statement.

The ITIM religious services organization has been working on the issue for two years, including with Shai on his legislative proposal, according to its director, Rabbi Seth Farber.

“This is a win for the Jewish world,” Farber said in a statement. “It reinforces the close connection between the Israeli and Diaspora Jewish communities and reinforces the trust between us.”