Students from outside of Israel who visit Israel on identity programs such as Birthright and Masa can now extend their time in Israel by up to six months.
On January 25, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri approved new regulations that would permit the students to gain a residence and work visa without having to prove that they are Jewish.
Before the regulations were signed, students who wanted to prolong their stay in Israel had to provide documented proof of their Jewish identity, such as a letter from a community rabbi or their parents’ ketubah, or Jewish marriage contract, which is sometimes difficult for the students to procure and provide. The identity programs do not require this documentation.
Birthright is a free, 10-day introductory visit to Israel for college students and young adults up to age 26. Masa offers over 200 study, volunteer, and internship opportunities throughout Israel that last between five and twelve months.
In December 2015, Nachman Shai of the Zionist Union Party had attempted to introduce legislation that would help with the situation, but was told that it would be handled by the government with a new resolution.
“This is a breakthrough for young Jews who seek to connect to the Israeli community,” Shai said in a statement.
According to the ITIM religious services organization’s director, Rabbi Seth Farber, ITIM has been working on this problem for two years, including working with Shai on his legislative proposal.
“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.”