Ruth Eglash of the Jerusalem Post reports on what appears to be Israel’s new policy toward frequent Jewish tourists: Live here, or don’t come at all.
Jewish tourists who spend more than 180 days in Israel, even without violating the terms of their tourist visas, are being increasingly harassed by border patrol officials, detained at the crossings and, in some cases, deported to their port of origin or forced to make aliya against their will, according to a Tel Aviv law firm.
Kan-Tor & Acco, a global relocation law firm that specializes in immigration matters and visas to Israel and the US, said Monday that it had noted a significant increase over the past few weeks in the number of Jewish tourists being detained by authorities at the border crossings, after the Interior Ministry deemed them to have exceeded the acceptable time limit for tourist status.
"Most of the time the calls come at night – people call us from the airport’s holding center, panicking and asking us to help bail them out," Amit Acco, a partner in the firm, told The Jerusalem Post. "In one case, a person was threatened with deportation because of visiting Israel too many times, and although we succeeded in posting a NIS 50,000 bail, it was contingent on the person making aliya within two weeks," he said.
Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Hadad says:
"Israel’s definition of a tourist, just like anywhere else, is non-citizen who makes a short visit to a country. If that person spends many months here or is a student here, then they need to adjust their status accordingly," she said.
Hadad denied that anyone had been deported and maintained that all those brought in for questioning by airport authorities had previously received warnings that they must consider changing their status or be denied entry.
"Someone who visits Israel excessively will be asked [by the Border Police] to explain what their business is in Israel," she said.
"If they own an apartment and spend long periods of time here, then they might need to change their status," she said. "If they are a student, then they need a student visa, and if they are working here, they need to have a work visa."