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Court accepts HaMoked’s petition against Interior Ministry rejection of a family unification application: A wet toothbrush and some fresh bananas found in the family’s Wadi Hummus apartment are not enough to determine family claim of center-of-life in Jerusalem is false

The State of Israel put up the separation wall to the east of the Wadi Hummus neighborhood, thus cutting it off from the West Bank, and thereby, it effectively recognized that the neighborhood was an inseparable part of the village of Sur Bahir, located inside the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. Despite this, based on a ruling of the High Court of Justice (HCJ) and the fact that the neighborhood itself lies outside the Jerusalem municipal borders, Israel persists in making life difficult for the neighborhood’s residents or even those who only own apartments there, requiring that they prove a center-of-life in Israel in order to resolve status issues with the Ministry of Interior. Israel often uses extremely crude and intrusive investigations aimed at finding “incriminating” evidence to support the claim that these residents actually live in Wadi Hummus, and therefore their status and rights may be denied.

A resident of East Jerusalem has been fighting for years so that his wife, a Jordanian national, could live with him in Jerusalem. His application for family unification with her was first denied in 2001, because investigations by the National Insurance Institute (NII) showed that the couple did not maintain a center-of-life in Israel. Following the construction of the separation wall to the east of Wadi Hummus, and following the NII's recognition that the neighborhood residents are Israeli residents for the purpose of the National Insurance Law, the husband reapplied for family unification, claiming that Wadi Hummus, where the couple lived with their growing family, was considered part of Israel. The Ministry of Interior denied this application as well.

On July 3, 2008, HaMoked petitioned the court to have Wadi Hummus recognized as part of Israel and the family unification application approved. The court accepted HaMoked’s position, and ruled, for the first time, that the Wadi Hummus neighborhood formed an integral part of Sur Bahir, and ordered the state to grant the applicant’s wife temporary status in Israel. The state appealed to the Supreme Court, but in the meantime, the couple said they had moved to live in Sur Bahir proper inside Jerusalem’s city limits. The state agreed to have the husband file another family unification application, rendering the petition moot.

In 2010, the family unification application was approved, and the wife received a temporary stay permit for Israel (visa type B/1), which was renewed periodically. In a ruling issued in 2011 concerning the registration of children in East Jerusalem, the HCJ determined that as Wadi Hummus is outside the city's municipal boundaries, even if they maintain a center-of-life in Israel, children living in Wadi Hummus may not be registered as Israeli residents.

In June 2013, when the time stipulated under the graduate procedure came, the woman applied to have her temporary stay permit upgraded to an A/5 visa, giving her temporary Israeli residency status. However, based on its investigations and examinations, the Ministry of Interior concluded that the family lived in Wadi Hummus rather than Sur Bahir proper. In July 2013, the Ministry of Interior rejected the application and terminated the family unification process.

On November 19, 2014, HaMoked filed an application for further review to the Appellate Committee for Foreign Nationals. HaMoked argued, inter alia, that the family never concealed the fact that it had property in Wadi Hummus, and that the Ministry of Interior should have also visited the family home in Sur Bahir before rushing to conclude where the family maintained its center-of-life. HaMoked asked the committee to instruct the Ministry of Interior to rescind its decision not to grant the husband’s family unification application. On September 9, 2014, the appellate committee rejected HaMoked’s application. The committee accepted the position of the Ministry of Interior and determined that the family had falsely claimed that its center-of-life was in Jerusalem. As reliable evidence of lack of center-of-life in Sur Bahir, the committee accepted the claims of Ministry of Interior representatives that on their visit to the Wadi Hummus home, they saw “fresh bananas” and a “wet toothbrush” in the house.

On October 22, 2014, HaMoked petitioned the court against the committee’s decision, asking that the Ministry of Interior be instructed to rescind the decision to deny the husband’s family unification application. HaMoked argued that the decision was disproportionate and unreasonable, that it was based on erroneous and biased findings and that it seriously violated the right to family life. HaMoked repeated its claim, first raised in the appellate-committee application, that the Ministry of Interior should have, at the least, carefully inspected the family’s claims, and ascertained whether it maintained, as it claimed, a center-of-life in Sur Bahir proper.

In its response to the petition, the state repeated its position that the family’s claim as to having a center-of-life in Sur Bahir while maintaining an apartment in Wadi Hummus was false. The state cited the same “evidence” uncovered in the Wadi Hummus apartment by Ministry of Interior representatives during their visit and stressed that the decision of the Ministry of Interior was reasonable and proportionate.

On December 25, 2014, the court accepted HaMoked’s petition. The court noted that in principle, the separation between Sur Bahir and Wadi Hummus was somewhat artificial, however, the Ministry of Interior was competent to determine that the family’s “main” center-of-life was in Wadi Hummus – but such a determination, the court said, should be based on solid evidence, which was absent in this case. The court criticized some of the evidence the Ministry of Interior had relied on, such as the “fresh bananas” and “wet toothbrushes”, which had been not mentioned in the written visit report of the Ministry of Interior representatives. The court revoked the ministry’s decision and instructed it to re-examine the petitioners’ application based on the judgment, and issue a new decision within 30 days. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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