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Israel cancels social security for non-Jews

Married a foreigner? Then the Housing Ministry wants its rent subsidy back 

Ghassem al-Abuda arrived in Israel 10 years ago after fleeing Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. At the time another 29 Iraqi citizens came with him, and all of them were recognized as refugees by the UN High Commission for Refugees.

Haven in other countries was found for 28 of them, and two remained in Israel and started families, including Abuda. A year after his arrival, he married an Israeli woman, and the couple now have three children. The oldest of the children is 8, and the youngest is 2 and suffers from a severe defect in his right leg that impedes his walking. He is in need of medical treatment and several operations.

The family lives in Nazareth on a state guaranteed income allowance. During the last two years, not only has the allowance been drastically cut - to NIS 2,300 per month - and the family's child allowances have been reduced, but also the rent assistance received from the Ministry of Housing has stopped because of policy changes - the ministry decided to withdraw rent assistance from Israeli citizens married to non-Israelis.

Abuda appealed a year ago to a special committee in the Housing Ministry for the rent subsidy to be reinstated, especially in light of his difficult economic situation.

But the request was rejected. Recently his wife Majda approached the ministry asking for reinstatement of the subsidy, and the representative in Israel of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mickey Bavli, has also submitted a request on behalf of the family to the director of the Ministry of Housing's population department, Israel Schwartz.

Abuda is not alone. In the last two years, the offices of the Yedid organization (the Association for Community Empowerment), especially those in Nazareth and Rahat, have received hundreds of requests from Arab Israelis whose rent subsidies were stopped because they are married to non-Israeli spouses.

Jamila Abu Gazaya of Nazareth has been married since 1997 to a resident of Nablus. She lives with her three children in a rented apartment in Nazareth. Her rent subsidy was stopped. Yedid helped her appeal to two Ministry of Housing committees, but her appeals were rejected. She pays NIS 1,400 in rent out of an allowance of NIS 2,400. If she were married to an Israeli, she would be eligible not only for a rent subsidy, but also for low-rent public housing. Ironically, her husband does not live with her because he did not receive a permit to stay in Israel.

Abu Gazaya's request to restore her rent subsidy was rejected even though Be'er Sheva administrative court Judge Yosef Alon in November 2004 ordered the Housing Ministry to pay a rent subsidy to another Israeli woman married to a non-Israeli. The judge determined that the spouse's citizenship was totally irrelevant to eligibility for rental help.

"The practice that rules out rental assistance for couples or families where one spouse is not Israeli harms the rights of the spouse and children who are Israeli citizens and discriminates against them as Israelis eligible to receive housing subsidies," wrote Attorney Dafna Feinsud-Zohar of Yedid's legal department, in a letter she sent over the weekend to the Ministry of Housing's legal adviser.

"Among the rights harmed that can be cited are the right to equality, the right to a dignified existence and the right to marry and have a family, all rights that have been recognized and anchored in a ruling of the Supreme Court and in international conventions," Feinsud-Zohar stated in her letter.

Attorney Feinsud-Zohar further noted that most of the people affected by the Ministry of Housing policy are Arab Israelis, and that the passage of the Citizenship Law last year almost completely prevents residents of the territories married to Israeli citizens from obtaining Israeli citizenship through family reunification.

In her appeal to the ministry's legal adviser, Feinsud-Zohar asks that ministry officials be instructed not to halt rental subsidies because recipients are married to non-Israelis, and that all those whose request for assistance was turned down during the last two years be invited to resubmit their requests for financial help.


Haaretz, "Married a foreigner?", 3 March 2005.

"The Insider" mailing list article, 03 March 2005.

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Tags: Israel, social security, housing benefit, foreigners, Jews, married, Israeli, , conspiracy theories.

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