A remarkable meeting of the Knesset’s Public Affairs Committee took place on Tuesday, January 24. The hearing addressed the plight of foreigners who live legally, in Israel, but who frequently do not receive various services which they are legally entitled to.

MK Yitzchak Pindrus, newly installed chairman of the Committee, gaveled the meeting. Pindrus’s staff summoned an extraordinary number of government bodies to the meeting. These included representatives of dozens of government institutions, including the Population Authority, Bituach Leumi, Ministries of Welfare, Education, Transportation and more. A total of 51 invitees participated in the two hour-long gathering. Representatives of Chaim V’Chessed, which champions the rights of English-speakers in Israel, attended and featured prominently in the proceedings.

The meeting opened with comments from two English-speakers who have not received their rights in Israel due to their status. Avigail Stiglitz, mother of an eight year old girl who is 98% vision impaired, described her experience with the Ministry of Welfare.  The Ministry refused to grant Avigail’s daughter a Teudat Iver (Blind Certificate) due to a lack of an Israeli identity number. This despite the fact that she is fully eligible, and in fact, properly receives all other services from different government bodies such as Kupat Cholim and Bituach Leumi.

Nissan Pshemesh, a teacher certified in Israel, then described his ordeal to the committee. After earning an Israeli teaching certificate in Special Education, he was hired to teach in a prominent institution. However, after four years of exemplary reviews, he was summarily fired from his position. The reason: he was barred from opening a teacher’s file at the  Education Ministry, due to not holding a Mispar Zehut.

Representatives of both the Welfare and Education Ministries were then called upon to respond. In both instances, the ministries admitted that the residents were in fact eligible for the respective services. Both claimed that ‘technical difficulties’ caused the issues. MK Pindrus ordered them to overcome these issues and establish a system which would guarantee that such residents are able to receive that which they deserve.

Another weighty topic which was addressed was the issue of different numbering systems that different government offices use to identify residents who are not Israeli citizens. Mrs. Rachel Morgenstern, head of Chaim V’Chessed’s Governmental Department, described to the committee how such individuals are issued a 77 number by Bituach Leumi, an 89 number by the Transportation Ministry and a 66 number by the Tax Authority. Morgenstern averred that these residents need to ‘walk around with a wallet full of numbers!’

Pindrus hailed Dani Zaken, Deputy Director of Bituach Leumi, as an example of proper treatment to the foreign resident committee. At the same time, he noted the complications which foreign residents encounter in nearly every other government office. Representatives of most ministries present pointed a finger at the Population Authority as the body which ought to establish a proper numbering system for foreign residents. 

Dani Zaken of Bituach Leumi testifying

Pinsdrus then grilled Population Authority officials as to why this hasn’t happened yet. “It’s hard to imagine that in 2023, in a tech hotspot such as  Israel, this can’t be worked out!” Pindrus exclaimed. He committed to following up on the matter, and intends to hold future hearings on this topic.