The Law of Return

In 1950, Israel’s Knesset passed a remarkable law, beginning with a few simple words that defined Israel’s central purpose: “Every Jew has the right to immigrate to this country...”


With the inception of the State of Israel, two thousand years of wandering were officially over. Since then, Jews have been entitled to simply show up and request to be Israeli citizens, assuming they posed no imminent danger to public health, state security, or the Jewish people as a whole. Essentially, all Jews everywhere are Israeli citizens by right.
In 1955, the law was amended slightly to specify that dangerous criminals could also be denied that right.
In 1970, Israel took another historic step by granting automatic citizenship not only to Jews, but also to their non-Jewish children, grandchildren, and spouses, and to the non-Jewish spouses of their children and grandchildren. This addition not only ensured that families would not be broken apart, but also promised a safe haven in Israel for non-Jews subject to persecution because of their Jewish roots.
The Law of Return, 5710-1950
  1.  Every Jew has the right to come to this country as an Oleh.
    1. Aliyah shall be by Oleh's visa.
    2. An Oleh's visa shall be granted to every Jew who has expressed his desire to settle in Israel, unless the Minister of Immigration is satisfied that the applicant --
      1. is engaged in an activity directed against the Jewish people; or 
      2. is likely to endanger public health or the security of the State. 
    1. A Jew who has come to Israel and subsequent to his arrival has expressed his desire to settle in Israel may, while still in Israel, receive an Oleh's certificate.
    2. The restrictions specified in section 2 (b) shall apply also to the grant of an Oleh's certificate; but a person shall not be regarded as endangering public health on account of an illness contracted after his arrival in Israel.
  4. Every Jew who has immigrated into this country before the coming into force of this Law, and every Jew who was born in this country, whether before or after the coming into force of this Law, shall be deemed to be a person who has come to this country as an Oleh under this Law. 
  5. The Minister of Immigration is charged with the implementation of this Law and may make regulations as to any matter relating to such implementation and also as to the grant of Oleh's visas and Oleh's certificates to minors up to the age of 18 years.


The Law of Return, 5714-1955: 1st Amendment
  1. In section 2 (b) of the Law of Return, 5710-1950 :
    1. The full stop at the end of paragraph (2) shall be replaced by a semicolon, and the word "or" shall be inserted thereafter;
    2. The following paragraph shall be inserted after paragraph (2):
      • "(3) is a person with a criminal past, likely to endanger public welfare."
  2. In sections 2 and 5 of the Law, the words "the Minister of Immigration" shall be replaced by the words "the Minister of the Interior".


The Law of Return, 5730-1970: 2nd Amendment
  1. 1. In the Law of Return, 5710-1950, the following sections shall be inserted after section 4:
    "Rights of members of family
    a. The rights of a Jew under this Law and the rights of an Oleh under the Nationality Law, 5710 - 1950, as well as the rights of an Oleh under any other enactment, are also vested in a child and grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew, except for a person who has been a Jew and has voluntarily changed his religion. 
    b. It shall be immaterial whether or not a Jew by whose right a right under subsection (a) is claimed is still alive and whether or not he has immigrated to Israel. 
    c. The restrictions and conditions prescribed in respect of a Jew or an Oleh by or under this Law or by the enactments referred to in subsection (a) shall also apply to a person who claims a right under subsection (a). 
    4B. For the purposes of this Law, "Jew" means a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has become converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion."
  2. In section 5 of the Law of Return, 5710 - 1950, the following shall be added at the end: "Regulations for the purposes of sections 4A and 4B require the approval of the Constitution, Legislation and Judicial Committee of the Knesset." 
  3. In the Population Registry Law, 5725-1965, the following section shall be inserted after section 3:
    1. A person shall not be registered as a Jew by ethnic affiliation or religion if a notification under this Law or another entry in the Registry or a public document indicates that he is not a Jew, so long as the said notification, entry or document has not been controverted to the satisfaction of the Chief Registration Officer or so long as declaratory judgment of a competent court or tribunal has not otherwise determined.
    2. For the purposes of this Law and of any registration or document thereunder, "Jew" has the same meaning as in section 4B of the Law of Return, 5710-1950.
    3. This section shall not derogate from a registration effected before its coming into force.


This translation of the Law of Return is from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.