Efrat Neuman’s Haaretz article of the 15th of April describing how many Israelis who have ancestral claims to citizenship in one European Union member-state or another are trying to claims these citizenships, for reasons of personal advantage or security. Needless to say, it can be rather fraught, especially for Israelis whose ancestors–or who themselves–fled those member-states.
In the past few years, arranging a European passport has become a flourishing industry in Israel, with a plethora of websites explaining the rights one can expect to receive and explaining the factors that might facilitate the process. There are attorneys who specialize in the issuing of passports by different countries and check entitlement to naturalization, as well as translation and notary services.
The upsurge began about 10 years ago. Until then, most Israelis did not consider a Polish, Hungarian or Romanian passport to be of any value. These countries were not considered attractive targets for emigration, and their passport was no better than the Israeli one. But in 2004, 10 states were inducted into the European Union, mainly from Eastern Europe. The new member states included Poland, Hungary, Latvia and the Czech Republic. Romania and Bulgaria joined in 2007. Ever since, a Romanian passport, for example, is no longer considered merely a Romanian passport: Now it is a European passport that opens the door to life on the Continent, facilitating free passage between countries, easy movement of workers in EU member states (subject to some restrictions), free university studies (in some countries) or low tuition fees, entry without a visa to the United States and most other countries, and also commercial advantages.
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Not everyone wants to receive a foreign passport, even if they meet the requirements. Seven years ago, when Romania joined the EU, Michaela’s children tried to convince her to apply for Romanian citizenship so that they, too, would benefit from citizenship and a foreign passport that would grant them free access to EU states. But she refused. As a Holocaust survivor whose family was expelled from the village in Romania where she grew up, she wanted nothing to do with the place where she was born and raised.
Not long afterward, the children traveled with their mother on a “family roots” trip to Romania. Her daughter recounts that after seeing up close the places where she spent her childhood and hearing at length what happened there, they for the first time identified with Michaela’s refusal to turn the clock back.
Similarly, the 60-year-old father of Gabi vehemently refuses to accept a foreign passport. However, after Gabi pressed and begged − on the grounds that it was worth having an option if something bad ever happened in Israel − his father reluctantly began the process. He traveled to the village in Romania where he was born to obtain his birth certificate, inquired as to the cost of submitting the request − and then regretted the decision.
Interestingly, the reason he gave was his children: He did not want them to have any incentive to leave Israel. Gabi’s father claimed that his own mother, who survived the Holocaust, had not relinquished her life and citizenship in Romania so her descendants could later do the same vis-a-vis Israel. The family disagreement has been raging for 10 years, and Gabi is still trying to persuade her father to change his mind.