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Interview: 'A Citizenship Law for Jews Around the World'

Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed has what he says is a better idea for a citizenship law - one that grants Israeli citizenship to Jews around the world.
By David Lev
First Publish: 10/16/2010, 9:27 PM / Last Update: 10/17/2010, 8:41 AM

Flash 90

A change in the citizenship law is welcome, if only because it makes clear – both to Jews and others – that Israel is a Jewish state, says Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed, Chief Rabbi of Beit El. But if the Knesset is changing laws, Rabbi Melamed has what he says is a much better idea for legislation – a statute that would confer Israeli citizenship on Jews all around the world.

“Of course, such citizenship would require some action on the part of those accepting it – and it would be limited,” Rabbi Melamed tells Israel National News. “Those accepting the citizenship would not necessarily have to live here, but they should visit Israel on a regular basis and work for the country when they return to their homes. And, they would not be able to receive all the benefits and rights Israeli citizens have, since they do not have the responsibilities of living in Israel.”

Nevertheless, says Rabbi Melamed, granting such citizenship would be a positive thing, both for Jewish communities around the world and for Israel. “It would increase the connection between Jews and the State of Israel, and make clear to everyone that this is a Jewish state.

”The Citizenship Law as proposed – which would require non-Jews seeking to become naturalized Israeli citizens – would have the same effect, making clear to those taking it that Israel is a Jewish state. However, it would not have any halachic (Jewish legal) impact on them. “And of course, we do not discriminate against anyone, and we must treat them with respect and dignity,” Rabbi Melamed says.

But more important is encouraging Jews to strengthen their connection to Israel, Rabbi Melamed says – and a law that grants Israeli citizenship to every Jew would be an excellent way to do this. “Any Jew that visits Israel should be able to become a citizen, at least to some extent. This is the state of the Jewish people,” he adds.