Last week, Israel celebrated Shavuot, the holiday on which we read the Book of Ruth. The following is a take on how correspondence between Anat Hoffman of the Israel Religious Action Center and the Ministry of Interior would look like if the Biblical Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David and Judaism’s first convert, were to be seeking legal status in Israel today. Chag sameach!
Mr. Eli Yishai*
Minister of Interior
Re: Ruth the Moabite – Request to Obtain Permanent Status in Israel
Our client, Ruth the Moabite, is the non-Jewish widow of a Jewish husband, Chilion son of Elimelech. Her husband passed away outside of Israel, in Moab, and is buried there. My client entered Israel legally with her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi, who was also widowed while abroad.
The following is a declaration of our client, Ruth the Moabite, regarding her strong link to the Jewish people: “Where you lodge, I shall lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where you die will I die, and there will I be buried” (Ruth 1:16-17).
In addition, you may find attached the appeal of Mr. Boaz son of Salmah, an Israeli citizen, who participates in this request for Ruth the Moabite’s permanent status in Israel with his intention to marry my client.
I ask that you grant our client status in Israel by virtue of her prior marriage to a Jewish man.
Anat Hoffman, Executive Director
The Israel Religious Action Center
The Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism
*Yishai (Jesse)—Biblical name of the father of King David and grandson of Ruth the Moabite.
The Israel Religious Action Center
Dear Ms. Hoffman,
Re: Ruth the Moabite
Your request was received by our offices and has been reviewed by our staff at the Ministry of Interior. The request is rejected due to the absence of essential documents needed for the Ministry’s procedures regarding these matters:
The Moabite woman is required to present a marriage certificate when requesting verification, as the marriage was performed abroad.
A death certificate of the deceased Jew signed by a recognized Chevra Kadisha must be presented.
Your client’s declaration of her link to Judaism is not acceptable as a conversion. In the absence of a conversion certificate, she is registered as a Moabite, not a Jew.
In reference to your client’s declaration: “Where you die will I die, and there will I be buried.” This statement cannot be used to seek approval from the Burial Council.
Your client is attempting any and all potential methods to legitimize her being in Israel, first through her claim that she is a widow to a Jewish husband and now through her new claim that she is the partner of Boaz son of Salmah.
In light of the above, we ask that the Moabite woman exit from Israel within 30 days from the receipt of your initial request in order to arrange her documents from abroad. As such, she can present herself at the Israeli Embassy in Moab to submit all of the required documents that meet the specified criteria for obtaining residency status in Israel.
The position of the Minister is that one must regret the situation in which a respected Jewish citizen of such high status, such as Boaz son of Salmah, requests to marry a non-Jewish woman. Do we lack proper women here in Israel? It is necessary and advisable to take into account the status of the expected children from such a union.
Dr. Shuki Amrani
Anat Hoffman is executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal and advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel. Read more about her here.