Latest update: March 7th, 2014
My fellow blogger and mainstay of Havel Havelim, the one and only Esser Agarot, has announced that he has begun the process of renouncing his American Citizenship. There was a time when American immigrants olim to Israel had to choose between holding onto their American citizenship and refusing Israeli citizenship or giving up (renouncing) American citizenship when they became Israeli citizens. Soon before our aliyah the law in the states changed which made it possible to be dual Israeli and American citizens. Actually, it wasn’t the law, it was the interpretation of the law by the Supreme Court Justices. As one of my Great Neck North Social Studies teachers, whose name I have unfortunately forgotten, used to say:
“American Law is whatever five out of nine Supreme Court Justices say it is.”
He made it clear that there was a fluidity in Law due to interpretations, which doesn’t require actually rewriting the law.
The problematic issue in being both American and Israeli had to do with serving in the Israeli Army, if I remember correctly. It was permitted to be drafted, but if an American enlisted in the IDF, it could be seen as a disloyalty which would endanger citizenship. So, in the middle of the 1960’s Israeli citizenship was written tailor-made to suit American immigrants. There was a status of “Temporary Resident” that automatically morphed into full citizen after three years unless the person went to the Israeli Ministry of the Interior and filled out a form refusing citizenship. There was no such procedure when I brought my father on aliyah a few years ago.
There was a time when Israeli dual citizens could serve in the Knesset as MK’s, but it was changed. One of the steps one must do to run for a seat in the Knesset is give up aka renounce all foreign citizenship, which does make sense. I think all elected office holders and even other high ranking public officials should be required to give up foreign citizenship. Since I’ve never even attempted any such lofty job or postilion, it doesn’t affect me personally.
But here we’re dealing with pragmatic question. Is foreign citizenship a matter of national loyalty or is it just the convenience of not needing to deal with visas when traveling to various other countries? Recent American citizenship laws or rulings have expanded on the rights of expatriates like myself to not only permit our foreign born children to be eligible for an American passport (though not full-citizenship including voting rights) but the children of those children, too. My grandchildren have all gone to the states to finalize their USA citizenship and now have passports and won’t need visas to enter the United States.
Since over the decades we’re here my husband is in touch with American Consular Officials people come to us with visa nightmare stories. We have been able to help on very rare occasions. Nowadays the decisions aren’t made locally. Once someone is refused a visa to the states he or she is pretty-much blacklisted for quite a while. I don’t see the point in risking being forbidden a visit to family.
I’m glad that we never had to choose between the country of our birth and the country of our choice!
But, simply put, the U. S. is no longer my country. How many times on Esser Agaroth have I said that Israel is the only true homeland of the Jewish People? A lot. Why should I keep my U. S. citizenship? For travel? For emergencies? Well, I have already gotten those scenarios covered, and I can use my Israeli passport,…if I really needed to. I have not left Eretz Yisra’el in 15 years, and have not set foot in the U. S. for 16 years, and have no intention of ever doing so again.
Also, why on earth should I allow the government of a country, not my own, continue to stick its nose into my business, financial and otherwise?
I have also not voted since before the presidential election of 2000, due to never getting my application for an absentee in time, in order to send it back in time, in order to receive my absentee ballot with enough time to send it back on time. Bush vs. Gore. Remember that one?
Esser Agaroth’s decison is his own and it suits him. It’s not for me.
About the Author: Batya Medad blogs at Shiloh Musings.
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