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Non Jewish Bulgarian Immigrant Becomes Jewish after Appeal

Date: 30.01.2010

A new immigrant from Bulgaria who came to Israel on the basis of the right of return was informed by the Interior Ministry, three and a half years after first arriving in Israel, that he was not Jewish, Haaretz reported.

As this conclusion automatically stripped him of his right to live in Israel, he was informed that he had to leave within two weeks.

The immigrant petitioned the Supreme Court and was awarded a stay, which meant that he could not be expelled.

Eighteen months later - and two days prior to deliberations before the Supreme Court - his attorney informed him that following a reevaluation of his case, he is now a Jew.

Nicolai Stoyanov, son and grandson of Jews, immigrated to Israel from Bulgaria in 2004 on the basis of his "right to return."

But in October 2007, Interior Ministry officials informed him that they did not consider him Jewish, and he was given two weeks to leave the country.

A petition to the Supreme Court halted the expulsion. On Thursday, he was surprised again: After more than two years of living in Israel without a coherent status, his lawyer informed him that the State Prosecutor's Office had concluded that his right to Israeli citizenship must be recognized.

"It was the happiest day and I am happy that the Interior Ministry people recognized, albeit after it was too late, their error and decided to restore Nicolai's citizenship," says Elazar Hazan, who represented Stoyanov.

"Unfortunately, the Interior Ministry officials will never be able to restore to my client the damage they caused to his dignity, income and psychological state," Hazan added.

Stoyanov, 31, applied to the Jewish Agency in Sofia for an aliyah visa to Israel, but was turned down. With the intervention of his father he came to Israel in April 2004, and three months later he was issued a temporary identity card and a work permit.

His visa was extended annually while he was becoming a citizen.

In October 2003, Stoyanov arrived at the Interior Ministry to renew his visa, but was informed that he is not entitled to be in Israel on the basis of the right of return, and ministry officials refused to renew his permit to stay in the country and ordered him to leave within 14 days.

"I was shocked," Stoyanov says. "I went there as part of the routine and they suddenly argued that I was not a Jew. All my family is here and I am not a Jew?

"I went through a difficult time without a job or a license, which is really incapacitating, because there is nothing you can do and no one listens to what you have to say. Were it not for my father's assistance I don't know what I would have done."

Stoyanov, whose father is Jewish, and grandfathers were Jews who lived and were buried in Israel, asked the Interior Ministry for a reconsideration of his case, but was turned down. His attorney was also unable to receive any explanation for the rejection.

Further investigation produced a document from 1946, alleging that Stoyanov's grandmother had converted.

Stoyanov managed to find documents and evidence that backed his claim that he is a scion of a Jewish grandmother, including documents from the Bulgarian interior ministry. However, the Interior Ministry in Israel still refused to accept his claims.

Taking the matter to the Supreme Court appears to have forced a belated reevaluation of the entire case, including the documents that Stoyanov acquired.

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