What is a Ben Mehagrim?
Loosely translated, a ben mehagrim is the son of an Israeli citizen who now lives abroad. If the child himself lived outside Israel from before age 10 until after age 18, he may be eligible for an army deferment of between one and four years while studying in Israel.
Ben Mehagrim and Draft Deferment
Obtaining a Mispar Zehut
In order to receive a draft deferment based on ben mehagrim status, one must be registered as an Israeli citizen and have a mispar zehut (Israeli ID number). Check with the Israeli parent or parents as to whether their teudat zehut has or had a sefach (addendum) with the child’s name and mispar zehut. If the ben mehagrim was never issued a mispar zehut, he will need to obtain one.
To do so, the Israeli parent(s) must go down to the nearest Israeli consulate to have the child registered as an Israeli citizen. An appointment should be made in advance. The parent(s) should bring their Israeli identification documents, the child’s original birth certificate with an apostille and his foreign passport.
If the Israeli parent is the father, the parents’ marriage must be registered with Israel; otherwise Misrad Hapnim will demand proof that the Israeli man is indeed the father of his child. If the father’s marriage to the child’s mother was not registered, the father must do so when he goes to the Israeli embassy to register the child. To do this he will require an Israeli marriage license or a foreign marriage license with an apostille.
If the child will be traveling to Israel, he is required to hold an Israeli passport. This can be applied for at the consulate as well. The child must be present at the time.
Please see this government website for further information on registering your child as an Israeli citizen.
Before travel to Israel
If you plan on traveling to Israel, it is recommended to arrange your ben mehagrim status beforehand. This can be done at the Israeli consulate nearest you.
Sh’nat Shehiya and Renewing a Ben Mehagrim Status
A Ben Mehager is allowed to stay in Israel no more than 120 days in a calendar year without being required to serve in the army.
In addition, they can receive a one-time sh’nat shehiya (one-year’s stay). This is defined as a visit to Israel for a duration of 121-365 days. This can be applied for upon arrival in Israel.
To apply to remain in Israel for a year’s stay:
Step One: Write a Letter to Lishkat Hagiyus
Ask your yeshiva to prepare an official letter on their stationary to be sent to the Lishkat Hagiyus. Fill in the letter with relevant details, then email it to email@example.com. Include your name and phone number.
Step Two: Appear at Lishkat Hagiyus
After two to three weeks, the applicant will be contacted by Lishkat Hagiyus. He must then go in person to Lishkat Hagiyus and appear there with a copy of the same letter. Lishkat Hagiyus will file the draft deferment in their computers. If possible, the applicant should request a physical document attesting to the deferment. Bring that document along to any dealings with Israeli bureaucracy, including the airport. Make a copy of it for safekeeping.
Extending a Ben Mehagrim Deferment
If your deferment expires while you are in Israel, you may be able to extend it for up to three more years. Please note: you must apply for an extension before it expires. If you allow it to expire, you may lose your ben mehagrim status completely. To renew your status, follow steps one and two above.
Furthermore, if your deferment expires while you are out of the country, you will be unable to renew it upon your return. Please contact Chaim V’Chessed to learn more about establishing residency in Israel beyond your ben mehagrim deferment.
Women and the Draft
Single girls who hold Israeli citizenship are not required to serve in the army if they are legitimately shomros Torah umitzvos. To receive a draft exemption, all that is required is a letter from a dayan certifying that the young woman is shomeres Torah umitzvos. Married women are completely exempt from the draft. If your teudat zehut is updated with your married status you do not need to do anything more to receive an exemption.
To receive your exemption as a Shomeres Torah Umitzvos:
First, get the letter from the dayan. Go to the nearest Beit Din Rabbani with your passport and any other legal documents you have with you, and request the letter. There is a charge for issuing this letter, payable with Israeli credit card only.
Next, bring the letter to Lishkat Hagiyus along with your passport or teudat zehat and legal documents. They will file the draft exemption on their computers. If possible, the applicant should request a physical document attesting to the exemption. Bring that document along to any dealings with Israeli bureaucracy, including the airport. Make a copy of it for safekeeping.
Lishkat Hagiyus Jerusalem
Rechov Rashi 103, off Sarei Yisrael
Sunday – Thursday 7:30 am–5:00 pm
Phone Service: 03-738-8888, Sunday – Thursday, 7:30 am–8:00 pm
Beit Din Rabbani Givat Shaul
Rechov Am V’Olamo 4, off Kanfei Nesharim
Sunday – Thursday 8:30 am-1:30 pm