Who wants to be a Jew? It appears that many people around the world would like to join the club which would grant them free entry into the State of Israel.
Interior Ministry data reveal that tens of thousands of requests have been filed in the past two years by members of "lost Jewish tribes" worldwide, mainly from Third World countries, seeking to immigrate to Israel.
A rise in the number of appeals has been noted in the past year.
The drop in the number of new immigrants arriving in Israel continued in the past Jewish year (18,746 new immigrants compared to 23,050 in the previous year). This trend has motivated private organizations, many of them religiously orientated, to locate descendants of the 10 tribes and bring them to Israel.
Interior Ministry officials are less enthusiastic over the matter and have recently issued strict regulations for people who converted abroad and seek to immigrate to Israel as Jews.
Sources in the ministry noted that more than half of the people who immigrated to Israel under the Law of Return, about 54%, were not really Jewish.
A draft document distributed in the past few days among organizations dealing with conversion lists a number of strict criteria set by the Interior Ministry for granting citizenship to people who converted to Judaism abroad.
Among the criteria: Taking part in regular Judaism lessons for nine months while actively participating in community life.
Data obtained by Yedioth Ahronoth reveal that thousands of people, claiming to be members of the 10 lost tribes, most of them from Africa and Asia, have immigrated to Israel with the help of different haredi groups, or are demanding to make aliyah.
According to estimates, millions of people in countries across the world – including Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Ethiopia, India, China, Russia, Peru, Portugal, Brazil and Spain – are demanding that Israel recognize their Jewish status.
Natasha Mosgovaya and Michal Goldberg contributed to this report