The Jerusalem Passport Dispute

None of the news articles mention that Naomi (Siegman) Zivotofsky and Alyza Lewin were college friends and classmates, part of an overachieving cadre that also included the Shalem Center’s Yoram & Yael (Julie) Hazony, Dan Polisar, and Evelyn Gordon (who has also written for the JPost, Commentary magazine and others). [I would mention more, but I'm sure I'll forget someone.] So the Zivotofsky’s didn’t need much help getting the attention of the nation’s “go-to” legal team for representation on Jewish issues. But they are involved in a very high-profile dispute with the U.S. State Department, and major Jewish organizations are lining up to file briefs in support of the Zivotofsky case with the Supreme Court.

At issue is the right of Naomi Zivotofsky to insist that the American passport she requested for her son Menachem from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv list “Israel” as his place of birth. He was born in Jerusalem in October 2002, about three weeks after President George W. Bush signed a bill directing the State Department to list “Israel” on the passports of American children born in Jerusalem if their parents requested it.

For more details, see the Brief for the Petitioner.

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10 comments to The Jerusalem Passport Dispute

  • sima irkodesh

    Go for it and do not give up.
    Jerusalem is Israel and Israel is Jerusalem. What other country is denied a capital by the decision of other countries? Good luck and hatzlacha rabba to the Lewin law team.

  • Bob Miller

    Why does the US State Department insist on having offices in Washington DC, an illegal city erected on property stolen from Native Americans? They have no Divine title to their land but we have ours to all of Yerushalayim.

  • Ken Bloom

    Thank you for finding the brief. I’ve been waiting for it to appear on SCOTUS Blog, since it was due at the court last week, but they haven’t posted it yet.

  • L. Oberstein

    My oldest daughter was born in Jerusalem and lived there for less than one month. Many years later she visited Israel several times with no problem. After 9/11 the computers were upgraded and she was given a lot to trouble leaving Israel on subsequent visits. She tried to renounce Israeli citizenship and they made it very hard and said all of her children born in the USA were also Israelis and that all of them need to get Israeli passports and then they can renounce the citizenship . They make it next to impossible. o, my daughter now has dual citizenship and used her Israeli passport the most recent time she visited Israel. They didn’t give her any trouble and she didn’t have to pay any special tax. However, we wonder what will happen if her children go to school there after high school. Israel makes it very hard and it isn’t sensible to force citizenship on people.

  • Shonnie

    L. Oberstein,
    Don’t go to a country when you are nine months pregnant and give birth there if you don’t want your child to be a citizen of that country when you know the country considers anyone born on its soil to be a citizen. (Just as an aside, did the nasty State of Israel pay for the birth and hospital care the baby and mom received? I’d like an answer to that question, because I suspect they did pay for all or part).
    If your daughter’s children don’t want to travel to Israel, they don’t have to, however, if they wish to visit, we expect them to obey our laws, just as visitors to the U.S. are subject to U.S. laws.
    You are guilty of loshen hara against your fellow Jews and the Land of Israel, something forbidden at all times but especially untimely during the week of Tisha b’Av. May you merit to make aliya to the Land Hashem gave the Jewish people, together with your children and grandchildren, rather than sitting in the USA complaining about our bad laws and how difficult we make it for your grandchildren to vacation here.
    Love,
    an Israeli citizen with no plans to renounce my citizenship

  • Raymond

    Somehow I am not surprised that something like this happened under the present Obama administration, which after all is more hostile to the Jewish State of Israel than any President since the notorious antisemite, Jimmy Carter.

  • L. Oberstein

    Shonnie, I honestly have no idea why you are so angry. Actually, we were in Israel because my wife and I were students. She gave birth the evening after she finished her final exams. Our child was delivered by Dr. Abulafia at Shaarei Zedek and we paid for a private doctor. We registered her birth within days at the US Consulate in East Jerusalem and her passport says Jerusalem as her country of birth. My point was that after numerous visits with no questions, several years ago they changed the policy and made it nearly impossible to do anything about it. My daughter tried to follow all of the rules, but the Israelis kept coming up with new impediments. If they want my daughter to be a citizen, that is one thing. But, they also insist that children of one Israeli parent born abroad are also Israelis and have to go through almost an impossible amount of hurdles to renounce Israeli citizenship. Why should Israel want to draft my grandson in the Army if he visits the country or learns in a yeshiva there, because his mother was born there and lived there for less than a month? Why is raising this point lashon harah? Many Americans living in Israel for decades are not Isaeli citizens and they renounce their children’s Israeli citizenship at birth. No one dreamed that was an option 40 years ago. To go back 40 years and make Israelis out of American born children is silly.

  • Shonnie

    L Oberstein

    I am not angry. I simply pointed out that you should not be criticizing Israeli laws. If you don’t like the country, don’t come. Why do you assume you have the “right” to learn in yeshiva? You have a right to come here to live and be a citizen. Not a right to visit and leave. To sit in America and slander Israeli laws sounds like loshen hara to me.

    They want to draft your grandson into the army because they need people to defend this land so you can come visit. He has no less a moral obligation to defend the land of the Jewish people than my grandson who lives in Jerusalem does.

    You paid for a private doctor for the birth, did you pay for the nursing care the newborn received? But anyway, enjoy your life as Americans.

  • Nachum

    “Many Americans living in Israel for decades are not Isaeli citizens and they renounce their children’s Israeli citizenship at birth.”

    Whether or not the rest of what you say is correct- and I still don’t think so- that one sentence is truly horrible.

  • Lawrence M. Reisman

    Actually, this is nothing new. In 1947, the UN decided that Jerusalem was to be an international city under UN jurisdiction. During the 1948 war, Israel tried to occupy the entire city, but was thrown out of the eastern half by Jordan. After 1948, Israel occupied the western part and Jordan the eastern part, and neither occpuation was recognized as valid by the international community. (This is why all but 2 foreign embassies are located in Tel Aviv, and why we can make a big stink of how only Great Britain and Pakistan recognized the Jordanian occupation of the west bank.) The US position that Jerualem is not part of Israel is just part and parcel of this policy. It would seem that there would have to be a treaty between all parties involved formally giving Israel the right to its capital. The only historical precedent is the case of Petersburg, which was built as the Russian capital while still technically Swedish territory. Foreign embassies moved from Moscow only after the treaty of Nystaad formally recognized Russian sovereignty. What is interesting is that the PA is claiming eastern Jerusalem for its capital. Now how is the UN(and the international comunity) going to justify that when it is holding Israel to the details of the 1947 partition plan ?