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Kenyan Jew who was denied entry into Israel to get new Visa

A Kenyan convert to Judaism, who made news last month after he was deported by the Israeli government despite having a valid visa will be re issued with another one.

During a stormy Knesset committee meeting which challenged the Interior Ministry’s handling of his case, the Conservative Movement claimed that the Population, Immigration, and Border Authority denied entry to Yehudah Kimani as part of a pattern of discrimination toward Jews from isolated and emerging communities around the world who are not associated with the Orthodox movement.

“This is a scandal and a new height of discrimination,” Yizhar Hess, the CEO of the Conservative (Masorti) Movement in Israel, was quoted by The Times of Israel.

“I do not believe that the Interior Ministry would have behaved this way toward Jews with any other skin color or who underwent an Orthodox conversion.”

Kimani addressed the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs meeting on January 3 via a prerecorded video message detailing his two applications for a tourist visa and rejection upon landing at Ben Gurion Airport.


Israel deports a Kenyan hours after landing in Tel Aviv

At the hearing, the Interior Ministry was forced to backpedal on its decision to deny Kimani’s entry on December 18.

Immediately after Kimani was deported, the ministry had claimed he had “fraudulently obtained a visa” by not informing the embassy that his first application for a visa had been denied.

However, both Kimani and members of the Conservative Movement in Israel had been in direct contact with the Israeli embassy in Nairobi to understand what was missing in order to approve the second visa.

But in the session on Wednesday, the Interior Ministry claimed that Kimani had asked for a tourist visa even though the purpose of his visit was study, which requires a separate visa, although many visitors to Israel for short study programs come on tourist visas.

As a result of the session, the committee instructed the Interior Ministry to grant Kimani a visa at a future date so he can study at the Conservative Yeshiva.


Kimani is a leader of Kehilat Kasuku, a small group of families in Kenya’s rural highlands who decided to leave Messianic Judaism in the early 2000s.

Some members of the Kenyan community, including Kimani, have undergone Conservative Jewish conversions in Uganda with the Abayudaya community.

Kimani, who studied tourism and hopes to run a kosher safari company in Kenya in the future, is now overseeing the final stages of building the community’s library.

Kimani said that while he was initially devastated about being denied entry to Israel, he is starting to see some good in the situation.

“When I heard that my case is being discussed in Knesset, it really showed me that I have something important to do in this world,” he said.

Still, Kimani noted that the attention paid to his case brought negative consequences as well, including doubts as to his Jewish identity.