The Swedish daughter of a Holocaust survivor faces deportation from Israel next week, after being denied her right to make aliya under the Law of Return. This apparently anti-Zionist decision by the Shasrun Interior Ministry was based on the fact that she was baptized as a week-old baby and a claim that she has ties to a Messianic organization, which she categorically denies.
Psychologist Rebecca Floer, 64, has been dividing her time between working in her native Gothenburg and treating patients in northern Israel, where she has been living on a renewed tourist visa for the past three years.
When she applied for citizenship over two years ago, her application was summarily rejected, and she appealed, which resulted in her tourist visa being revoked and her being ordered to leave the country by this coming Sunday.
Under the Law of Return, anyone with a Jewish grandparent is entitled to make aliya, except for those who have voluntarily abandoned Judaism. Population and Immigration Authority official Irit Laubel told The Jerusalem Post that the authority had received information that Floer is “presented as a Messianic Jewish psychologist who believes in Jesus” and is affiliated with a Swedish Evangelist organization.
Floer stresses that she is a Jew by both patrilineal descent and self-identification and denies anonymous claims that she has a connection to any Christian organization.
“I have suffered a great injustice, because all my life I have suffered from antisemitism because of my Jewishness, and now that I am trying to live in Israel, the homeland of the Jews in which I feel protected, they are renouncing me…. I feel that this is my home and I have security and a sense of family… in contrast to the situation in Sweden, which is getting worse,” Floer said.
Floer’s lawyer, Shira Schwartz Meirman, argues that the Law of Return applies to Floer, since as a newborn infant she did not voluntarily become baptized.
“Her father was a Jew and was even persecuted during the Holocaust and lost some of his family members due to their Jewish identity. While he distanced himself from the religion after the Holocaust, he did not believe in another religion, and therefore his daughter is entitled to immigrate to Israel,” Schwartz Meirman said.
In egregious denial of the facts, however, the Population and Immigration Authority told the Post: “The daughter was baptized in the church immediately upon her birth.
In light of the above, and after the details were examined carefully, the reservation to the Law of Return was applied to them as those who converted.”
Floer’s grandparents and two of their children were murdered by the Nazis. After the war her father married a Swedish Christian woman, Floer’s mother.
“My grandparents lived in Vienna in 1938 when the Nazis marched through the streets of Vienna. They tried to flee, and no country would accept them, and Israel did not exist. And now the Nazis are marching in Gothenburg, and Israel does not accept me,” said Floer.
In an ironic twist to this tale of bureaucratic cruelty, this week the Knesset Immigration and Absorption committee, in honor of World Suicide Prevention Day, discussed what to do about the high rate of suicide among immigrants to Israel. Astoundingly, immigrants constitute one-third of the country’s annual suicides, despite being just 20% of the population.
Committee chairman MK Avraham Neguise (Likud) explained that their higher risk of suicide is due to lack of a supportive environment, the stresses of adjusting to life in Israel, and the burden of finding a livelihood. The Interior Ministry would at least spare Floer from the risks of making aliya.
Her case recalls an issue involving aliya and conversion that aroused the country during the 1960s. Shmuel Oswald Rufeisen (1922–1998), better known as Father Daniel, a Polish-born Jew, survived the Holocaust by hiding in a monastery and eventually became a friar of the Carmelite Order. After moving to Israel he applied for citizenship under the Law of Return, but was refused on the grounds that he had converted to Christianity.
Rufeisen petitioned the High Court of Justice, which in 1962 upheld the government’s decision. Nevertheless, he eventually acquired citizenship through naturalization and lived out his life at the Carmelite Monastery in Haifa.
Rebecca Floer’s case shouldn’t require a High Court decision for her to become an Israeli citizen.