German passport popular in Israel
Personal benefits overcome shame? Study explains why 100,000 Israelis, many of them offspring of Jews who fled Nazis, possess German citizenship
For many years, Israelis of German descent boycotted German products, refused to set foot on German soil and severed all ties with the country they were born in. But now, their own children and grandchildren are fighting for the right to become German citizens.
According to a new study, some 100,000 Israelis possess a German passport.
Recent years have seen a surge in the number of offspring of Israelis of German descent applying for a passport. These figures are 10 times higher than the number of Israelis seeking citizenship in other European countries, like Poland of Romania.
The law allows Israelis whose original citizenship was revoked from them, their parents or their grandparents under Nazi laws to receive a German passport.
Despite the lenient preconditions, in the past Israelis felt uncomfortable possessing a German passport. More citizenship applications were filed with other countries, mainly Eastern European countries which joined or are slated to join the European Union.
But the past decade has seen a change: Israelis with German roots decided to seize the opportunity and become full-fledged Germans.
A new study conducted by Dr. Sima Salzberg of Bar-Ilan University, which will be published in the Eretz Acheret magazine edited by Bambi Sheleg, reveals that some 100,000 people living in Israel
possess a German passport as well.
According to figures provided by the German Embassy, in the past few years about 7,000 Israelis have applied for a passport every year. More than 70,000 such passports have been granted since 2000.
Other countries like Poland, Romania and Austria have only issued up to 6,000 passports to Israelis throughout the past decade.
These figures point to an amazing growth in the popularity of the German passport, considering the fact that Germany and its symbols are still banned by quite a few Israelis – mainly Holocaust survivors or relatives of Holocaust victims.
The article, which quotes experts and academics, provides a series of reasons for the German passport's popularity among Israelis: Former citizens feel a real desire to regain a citizenship robbed from them or from their forefathers; Israelis are no longer ashamed to possess a German passport; and the younger generation can gain personal benefits.
Israelis with a German passport don't need a visa to enter the United States, can receive a scholarship for academic studies abroad, can enter countries which Israelis are banned from – and money, the study rules, erases any ideology.
"These figures are the result of many factors," says Sheleg. "It's a fascinating identity issue. What makes 100,000 Israelis, many of them offspring of Jews who emigrated from Germany, apply for a German passport?
"I strongly object to this idea, which seems like a fantasy to me, a sort of oversight of reality. And yet, it's fascinating to see the excitement leading many of them to issue a German passport. It's unclear what exactly they're missing."
The data are included in a special issue of Eretz Acheret, published this time together with Yakinton, a magazine issued by the Association of Israelis of Central European origin in honor of the 75th anniversary of German Jews' immigration to Israel, which will be held at the Jeckes Heritage Center in Tefen.
The association's chairman, Reuven Merhav, slams the new trend, saying that "there is one passport, a blue one, which carries the State's symbol, and that's the document we use to identify ourselves abroad and which gives us the freedom of movement we have in the world, as of right and not on sufferance."
Roy Horowitz, 28, of Givat Shmuel, one of the Israelis who chose to apply for a German passport, says "I respect the Israelis who boycott Germany, but I don't think like them. The passport saves me a lot of money in a visa to the US and other countries, and helps me reach countries which don't honor Israeli passports.
"Obviously, if I had the option to choose, I would prefer an American passport. When people ask me if I don't have a problem with it, I say that, on the contrary, I will utilize the passport to the fullest in spite of the Germans."