It’s a question that gets asked a lot. A growing number of believers who are Jews according to Halacha (Jewish religious law, meaning they have a Jewish mother), as well as those who might have some familial Jewish connection somewhere, are looking to make aliyah and physically stand with Israel.
But can they legally do so?
A casual glance at Israel’s Law of Return would suggest that yes, they can. After all, the law is meant to provide an easy path “home” for every Jewish person in the world.
But years ago, following controversy over the immigration to Israel of Jews who openly professed faith in Jesus as Messiah, the Law of Return was amended to require applicants to both be born of a Jewish mother, and not have become “members of another religion.”
Israel’s Supreme Court has since then ruled on a number of occasions that professing faith in Jesus makes one a Christian, and therefore a “member of another religion.” As such, these applicants are, in the eyes of Israeli law, ineligible for aliyah.
But is that fair?
After all, Jews who follow Buddhism, an assortment of New Age religions, or who are avowed atheists (which is the most antithetical position to Judaism) are permitted to immigrate seemingly without scrutiny under the Law of Return’s amendment.
Messianic Jews appear to be a special case.
As Adv. Joshua Pex of the Jerusalem-based law firm COHEN, DECKER, PEX, BROSH–which deals often with matters of aliyah
and visas–explained in a recent article
“The Supreme Court’s rulings on the subject presented two schools of thought, representing different approaches to understanding the Israeli legal system. Justice Alon’s approach, which is based on the world of Judaism and Jewish law, contrasts with the liberal, secular, national viewpoint of Justice Barak. Despite the different theoretical approaches, both judges reached the same conclusion – a Messianic Jew (ie, the child of a Jewish mother who believes that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel) is of ‘another religion’ rather than Judaism.
“Justice Alon supported his claims with sources in Judaic tradition, which claim that a ‘convert’ is not part of the Jewish people, and therefore is not entitled to join the Jewish state.Justice Barak expressed his opinion that even according to a secular outlook there is general agreement that ‘a Jew who believes in Jesus’ is no longer a Jew, according to the national meaning of the term.”
In the upcoming June 2019 issue of Israel Today Magazine, we will ponder the recent coming to faith in Jesus of a very prominent American Jew, and whether or not Israel would grant himentry under the Law of Return.