Ari Zivotofsky and Naomi Siegman Zivotofsky, parents of their Jerusalem-born son Menachem, have fought for years to convince the U.S. State Department to allow their son to designate Israel as his place of birth on his passport, citing a 2002 law passed by Congress. Though the law was signed, it was never implemented due to State Department concerns that indicating “Israel” as the birthplace of a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem would amount to an official U.S. statement about Jerusalem’s status.
B’nai B’rith was one of 10 major Jewish organizations to file a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the family.
“There’s no reason why Israel cannot be named as one’s country of birth. Omitting this fact changes a fundamental part of one’s identity,” said Allan J. Jacobs, president of B’nai B’rith International. “By only allowing a child to name a city, not a country, as a birthplace, is denying that child the right to have a country of origin. It should not be up to the U.S. government to determine what cities fall within the borders of a given country.”
The March 26 8-1 decision overruled lower court decisions that had argued this case does not fall under the jurisdiction of the judiciary because the courts are not responsible for determining foreign policy. State Department policy states that passports of American citizens born in Jerusalem can only identify “Jerusalem” as their place of birth, not “Israel.”
“A passport is a document of identity, not a foreign policy manifesto,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “Americans born in Israel—whether in Jerusalem or elsewhere in the country—have the right to acknowledge Israel as their birthplace.”