JIJ’s Israeli litigation department exists with a focus on protecting civil rights and religious freedom under the Israeli Basic law which guarantees it to each citizen of Israel. Our team has successfully handled over 600 cases dealing with issues like family unification, affirmative action, and tax exemptions. Israel is a non-uniform society with dozens of religious streams represented and a Jewish majority. Moreover, Israel’s designation as both a Jewish and a democratic state sometimes creates adverse situations affecting members of minority religious groups.
JIJ’s Israeli litigation fund helps us pursue justice and religious freedom and advance civil rights for all residents of Israel. JIJ strongly believes that the state of Israel is the sole homeland for the Jewish people, but at the same time, that it is critically important for us to ensure that minority ethnic and religious groups in Israel receive the equal treatment described in Israel’s declaration of independence.
The International Department of JIJ’s litigation fund is building a network of jurists around the world who are focused on defending the Jewish people from vicious attacks rooted in anti-Semitic prejudice.
Being aware that not all objective criticism of Israeli policy is rooted in hatred of the Jewish people, we encourage any person who witnesses an anti-Semitic act, be it verbal or written, to immediately submit documentation thereof to our International Advocacy Team using the form below or emailing us at email@example.com.
“Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”
MR is an Israeli Evangelical Christian with permanent residency in Israel. He completed his mandatory service in the IDF and currently serves in reserve duty. He is an active Christian Zionist and helped establish a ministry that helps prepare the Christian Zionist minority of Israel for their army service.
Even though MR served in the IDF and meets all the requirements for citizenship, the Ministry of Interior was not willing to grant him immediate citizenship. This decision was rooted in religious discrimination false rumors that MR was an illegal missionary.
In accordance with section 6 to the Law of Citizenship, 5712 – 1952 (hereinafter: the “Law of Citizenship”), any person who serves in the IDF for a period of 18 months is entitled to Israeli citizenship upon request and upon declaring that he would like to settle in Israel. After MR had waited a couple of years for a verdict on his request for citizenship, JIJ petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court of Justice on MR’s behalf. JIJ requested that he be granted citizenship with no further delays, according to section 6 of the Law of Citizenship.
Several months after the petition was submitted—while MR was serving in reserve duty during Operation Protective Edge, the most recent Israeli-Gaza conflict—the state’s attorney recognized that there was no legal justification for not granting MR full citizenship. As a result, MR was called into the Interior Ministry’s office, pledged his allegiance to the state of Israel, and received his long-awaited citizenship.
In January 2012, JIJ submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice for an injunction against the law that grants synagogues and their surrounding buildings a 100 percent Arnona (municipal property tax) exemption. JIJ’s petition stated that this law violates Israel’s democratic character as well as human rights and social values by discriminating against citizens of religions other than Judaism. The injunction ordered local authorities to interpret and apply the amendment to the houses of worship of all faiths or to order the Knesset to amend the law so that it refers to other religions.
In August 2012, the Knesset amended the law so that the exemption included all houses of worship in Israel, including mosques and churches.
Clayborn Hayes has been stateless for nearly 40 years. The U.S.-born African-American, now 66, disabled, and in poor health, felt a strong connection to Israel as a young man. At 24, he moved to southern Israel, to the dusty desert town of Dimona, to join the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, also known as the Black Hebrews, a small community whose members believe they are descendants of the ancient tribe of Judah (read more here). Hayes began to struggle with theological and other concerns, embraced Christianity, left the Black Hebrews, and moved to Jerusalem.
Many Black Hebrews renounced their American citizenship after arriving in Israel, believing this was the only path to Israeli citizenship. Hayes did the same. After leaving the group, he applied for Israeli citizenship at the Interior Ministry, but was rejected. Hayes, still hopeful, kept reapplying, but he was rejected each time. Lacking citizenship and therefore, without a work permit or state benefits such as health insurance and a pension. Hayes turned to JIJ.
“Cases of stateless people are usually based on their having left their country and then that country fell apart,” said attorney Michael Decker, JIJ’s chief legal counsel. “The difference with Clayborn Hayes is that his country — the United States — did not fall apart. And according to U.S. policy, it’s almost impossible to receive your citizenship back after you’ve renounced it.”
After long public and diplomatic campaigns, in 2003 the Interior Ministry granted Dimona’s Black Hebrews permanent residency. But Hayes, no longer a Black Hebrew, was left behind. He is struggling to survive in Israel without the right to work and without access to health insurance to treat his orthopedic, neurological, and dental problems. “Every day when I get up in the morning, I hope,” Hayes said. “The hope is still there. I’m not giving up. I’m gonna keep on trying.”
In 2008, JIJ took on Hayes’ case. After several rejected appeals before the Israeli Interior Ministry, JIJ petitioned the Israeli courts to grant Hayes status as a stateless person on humanitarian grounds and on the grounds that the entire Black Hebrew community, of which Hayes was a member when he renounced his U.S. citizenship, received permanent residency status.
The court agreed to re-examine Hayes’ case on humanitarian grounds, with the stipulation that Hayes would first petition for reinstatement of his U.S. citizenship and establish his inability to be reinstated before approaching the Interior Ministry again.
With your donations, JIJ will first hire U.S. legal representation on Hayes’ behalf to try to reinstate his U.S. citizenship. Should Hayes remain stateless as a result of losing his petition for reinstatement, JIJ will continue its efforts to obtain status for him in Israel on humanitarian grounds and according to the demands of the Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons,
The cost for U.S. legal representation and continued legal representation in Israel is estimated at U.S. $15,000.
Please partner with JIJ as we continue to grant pro bono legal assistance to those who cannot afford legal representation and as we endeavor to advance freedom of religion, civil rights, and social justice within Israel and to combat anti-Semitism outside of Israel.