Thursday, March 11, 2010

My other passport is with Mossad

My daughter just got her first passport and now I am faced with the decision of whether I should try and get her a British passport too.  My son has three passports: British, US and Israeli (his mother is American).  It's fine as long as they don't all start requiring compulsory military service or taxes.  At this stage he's too young for the Mossad to send his doubles (or in his case trebles) to Dubai.  I somehow avoided this fate, probably because my surname "Lowenstein" is too obviously Jewish (it isn't Jewish). 

Passports are a big deal here in Israel.  Our passports won't get you into many places.  My British passport enables me to freely trek or work round Europe and, no less importantly, it gives me visaless entry to the USA. An Israeli wanting to travel to the USA has to queue for hours at the US Embassy where each applicant is personally interviewed to check they are neither a terrorist or someone trying to illegally emigrate.
On my occasional jaunts to Egypt and Jordan I prefer to enter with my British passport in the almost-certainly-false belief that being a Brit will somehow afford me extra protection.

Since the EU started to spread across Eastern Europe a lot of Israelis are rediscovering their Bulgarian, Polish etc. roots and trying to obtain local passports.  There may also be the distant memory of the holocaust when passports could be a ticket to life.  Raul Wallenberg famously saved thousands of Jews by handing out Swedish passports.

My father had passport troubles. He was born in Nurenburg in Germany and his parents were Polish immigrants to Germany. In 1938 the Nazis cancelled the German citizenship of all such German-Poles. 
 He was adopted by a German (-Jewish) family so it took them a bit longer to get round to him, but eventually even adopted children were traced. His (adopted) mother had to get him a fake Polish passport to enable him to leave Germany because he wasn't entitled to any passport. The German system at the time was simply to deport such Jews to Poland. The Poles refused to accept them, saying they were Germans, and about 17,000 Jews starved to death in a small space between the two countries (see Herschel Grynszpan for more information, see this too). 

You can see my grandmother's passport at the side.

When my father reached England (3 days before the outbreak of World War II) he stayed there as a non-citizen.  He used a UN refugee document to travel for the next 30 odd years and only took out British citizenship in 1969 when he decided to emigrate to Israel.  By that time he had a whole British family.  Obviously he was afraid the British wouldn't take him back. He then did the same thing in Israel, living there for ten years without taking out a passport.  It caused me a lot of trouble years later when I decided to live in Israel: they couldn't decide if I was an Israeli citizen or not.  They eventually decided I wasn't.

A few years ago my cousin applied for a German passport on the basis that her mother (my father's real sister) had been a German citizen before the war and was rejected because her mother "wasn't a German citizen".  Which I find very irritating.  Her mother was born a German citizen in Germany and it was only the Nazis who cancelled her citizenship.  Needless to say if she applied for Polish citizenship they would reject her because her mother was German.

Incidentally while my son does have a British passport his children will only be British if they are born in Britain.  The Israelis will take him wherever he is.



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