Jennifer Alpenbein, a Jewish women from Los Angeles attempting to immigrate to Israel, said she was detained for questioning and felt sexually harassed by two Population and Immigration Authority (PIA) agents, while waiting for the bus in north Tel Aviv on Wednesday.
Alpenbein had come to Israel as part of the Birthright Israel project, after which she decided to make Aliyah. Over the past few months she has been residing in Israel on a tourist visa.
Alpenbein applied for an Israeli citizenship with the assistance of the Nefesh B'Nefesh organization, and she was supposed to receive her Israeli ID in two weeks.
According to Alpenbein, she left her friend's house in the Ramat HaHayal neighborhood on Wednesday and was waiting for the bus at a nearby station when two PIA agents stepped out of a vehicle that stopped next to her and asked her to identify herself.
The young woman, who had forgotten her passport at her friend's house, showed the agents her American driver's license.
Alpenbein told Ynet that the agents asked her to accompany them. "They took my phone and purse, tossed them into their car and told me to come with them."
The Jewish American claims that she was harassed by the agents while driving to the PIA's office in Jaffa. "As soon as we entered the car, they asked me what I think about (US President Donald) Trump and started smoking," she recalled.
Alpenbein added that the agents went through the photos on her phone and suggested to set her up with their friend. "I felt like I was being sexually harassed," she said.
When she arrived at the authority's office, one of the employees told her the agents were just joking with her, since they are "used to working with different populations."
Alpenbein, who is an actress, arrived in Israel at the beginning of July and began filing the required papers to make Aliyah.
Her three-month entry visa to Israel expired on Sunday.
After an inquiry with the Nefesh B'Nefesh organization conducted by the PIA, Alpenbein was told that her papers had expired and that she had not filed for an Israeli citizenship.
After several hours, she was released and taken to the Holon Junction, where she claims she was left.
"I didn't sleep all night, and I cried. I feel anxious, humiliated. I'm afraid to wait at a bus station," she told Ynet.
"I'm no longer excited to become an Israeli citizen. Now I'm not even sure whether I want to follow through with the process of receiving an Israeli citizenship," she vented.
The PIA issued a statement saying, "An examination of the incident's details indicates that Jennifer Alpenbein was detained in Tel Aviv after she had failed to present any identifying documents and after her residence permit had expired."
"Alpenbein did not file a request to immigrate to Israel and is not in the midst of an ongoing immigration process. She was taken to the Authority's facility for further examination, and only then did she declare that she would like to apply for citizenship," the statement went on to say.
"During most of her stay at the facility, we attempted to assist her in applying for citizenship, and after she was taken to Holon at her request, she filed the papers to make Aliyah.
"Alpenbein was not asked at any point about her political preferences. We lament the blatant distortion of the incident's facts, which is apparently meant to portray a false picture of a simple case of a detained tourist due to an expired residence permit," the statement concluded.
Zev Gershinsky, vice president of Nefesh B'Nefesh, said, "Jennifer Alpenbein filed a request to the Ministry of Interior to receive a new immigrant status as part of the joint Nefesh B'Nefesh and the Population and Immigration Authority's Guided Aliyah program.
"Every year, the program enables hundreds of people eligible to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return to change their status (to citizens), while facilitating bureaucracy and assuring the success of the process.
"As Alpenbein turned to Nefesh B'Nefesh at the beginning of September, all of her papers were submitted to the Population and Immigration Authority and she is expected to complete the process of becoming an Israeli citizenship within the next two weeks."