London’s Charedi community has spoken of a “decisive breakthrough” in relations between the strictly Orthodox and Israel’s representatives in the UK, after a meeting in Stamford Hill last week.
Israel Ambassador Mark Regev discussed same-day visas for Orthodox youngsters going to study at yeshivot in Israel, in what was only the second visit of an Israeli ambassador to the Orthodox hub, the first being Daniel Taub four years ago.
Regev undertook his first official engagement with the community’s leadership at the house of Rabbi Osher Shapiro on Wednesday, after commencing in-post in April 2016.
Charedi leaders were keen to stress the visa difficulties experienced by young Orthodox Jews, and to seek assistance in streamlining the process.
Anyone visiting Israel for more than three months needs a visa and many Orthodox boys and girls aged 16 and 17 travel to Israel to study in religious schools for up to half a year, between the festivals of Succot and Pesach.
However, most families are not aware of the rules, such as that stating that any 16-year old travelling to Israel for religious studies needs the signature of both parents.
“There’s no real understanding of visa requirements in the Charedi community and it can take up to two weeks, with several return visits to the embassy, so we welcome the ambassador’s help to increase understanding on the issue” said Levi Shapiro, director of Stamford Hill’s Jewish Community Council (JCC).
He added that Regev’s visit had been “special” because the area was once less than welcoming to Israelis, owing to the strong anti-Israel feeling among some sects.
“Traditionally there have been mixed levels of support for Israel and the ambassador in Charedi communities, but this showed that the level of support is strong.”