The Beersheba District Court issued an interim injunction on Monday for seven days prohibiting the Interior Ministry’s immigration police from enforcing deportation orders against some 50 members of the Hebrew Israelites community, who live in the southern city of Dimona.
Within those seven days, the state can try to convince the court not to hear an appeal against the deportation that has been submitted on behalf of the deportees.
If the deliberation of the appeal goes ahead, the injunction will remain in place until the judge decides the case.
Earlier this year, 51 members of the community were ordered to leave the country by September 23 on the grounds that they have no legal status to stay. Letters were sent to the families of the relevant individuals, some of whom were born in Israel and some of whose children have served in the IDF. They were told to leave within 60 days but were given the right of appeal. None of them have since left the country.
On Sunday, immigration police started looking for them in the desert city.
Those who received deportation notices either entered Israel from the United States as tourists and remained in the country illegally once their permitted three-month stay was up, or are the children of those who did so.
The Interior Ministry says that neither residency in Israel for a long period nor work in the country are sufficient grounds for a change of status.
A Hebrew Israelites spokesman, Ashriel Moore, who is coordinating the campaign to stop the deportations, has told The Times of Israel that those who are not eligible for US citizenship or have renounced it are stateless and have nowhere to go.
The 3,000-strong community, which believes it is descended from an ancient Israelite tribe, began arriving in Israel in 1969, following the late Ben Carter, a Chicago steelworker who renamed himself Ben Ammi Ben-Israel and claimed to be God’s representative on earth.
The community is not recognized as Jewish by Israel’s religious authorities.