EXCLUSIVE: After Being Denied Aliyah for Four Years, Barbra Streisand’s Cousin Finally Arrives in Israel, Hopes to Stay
After a four year battle to be accepted for aliyah, Barbra Streisand’s first cousin, Dale Streisand, arrived in Israel with his family on Thursday, The Algemeiner has learned. Still facing bureaucratic challenges, Streisand told The Algemeiner that he is seeking employment and that he hopes that the Israeli government will let him stay.
Coming from the Philippines, Streisand said he was left without electricity and water for three weeks following last November’s Typhoon Haiyan. The Home in the Homeland blog said that he was able to sell his house to raise funds for his move to Israel just a week before the natural disaster struck.
Upon arrival in Israel along with his wife and three children, the youngest of whom is just two months old, Streisand said that he was detained for an hour before Israeli officials granted him a tourist visa, which he said was in contravention to an agreement he had arrived at with the Interior Ministry after a courtcase in May, 2013.
Initially, Streisand made headlines back in February 2011, when he was first informed by the Jewish Agency that his aliyah request would be deferred to Israel’s Interior Ministry because he was found to have a link on his Facebook profile to a Christian missionary website, bringing his commitment to his Jewish roots into question, Haaretz reported. Under Israel’s Law of Return, people who have converted away from the faith have at times been denied the Jewish right to Israeli citizenship.
“The Jewish Agency, which assists the Interior Ministry in examining the right to immigrate, referred Mr. Streisand to a meeting with representatives of the Interior Ministry, who were not persuaded that he bears the right to immigrate,” the agency said at the time. “It was never claimed that Mr. Streisand is not a Jew by birth. Obviously, an individual’s relationship with Christians does not revoke his right to immigrate.” A Jewish Agency representative did not immediately respond to The Algemeiner’s request for comment on Sunday.
Streisand, who’s Hebrew name is Da’el Yochai, challenged the agency’s decision with the help of a lawyer named Mark Zell, who read about his plight and offered to help. The case made its way to Israel’s Supreme Court and Streisand appeared in person in front of the judges on May 6th, 2013.
“They looked at me and actually checked me out, and so they made a compromise with us,” Streisand said, explaining that it was agreed he would be allowed to come to Israel on an A5 general visa for a period of one year, and then apply for aliyah from within Israel.
“After one year of living in Israel, then we can apply for the aliyah status. We were supposed to have the A5 when we entered but they didn’t do it, they just gave us the tourist visa,” Streisand said. The Interior Ministry’s spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.
“I am a Baal Teshuvah (penitent) and they really didn’t believe it,” Streisand, who spent years following Hare Krishna and dabbling in Eastern spirituality, said, stressing that he is now a fully practicing, committed Jew. I was “searching, but searching the wrong way,” he said. “My whole life I had a quest looking for the supreme truth, for God.”
Now in Israel, Streisand says he is doing his best to make things work. “Hopefully we can make it here, it is a bit of a difficult thing, but we are determined,” he said.
Denied the benefits an aliyah participant would usually receive so far, Streisand has been helped by generous individual Israelis. He is staying in Beitar Ilit, an hour south of Jerusalem, at the home of a rabbi friend. “They have been extremely kind to understand our situation and try to help get us started,” he said.
“We can live and work in Israel,” he said. “We get no benefits, I think in six months we get some type of heath insurance… but there is no ulpan (language coaching) there is no money to help you get started… there are quite a few benefits for aliyah and we don’t get one, we were not even met at the airport by them.”
“It is freezing here. In the Philippines it is very warm always, we didn’t even have warm clothes,” he added.
But Streisand remains optimistic and focused on working to create a new life for his family in the Holy Land.
“We didn’t get the red carpet treatment. We don’t care, you know. That is okay,” he said. “Because we have to kind of fend for ourselves… I definitely need two basic things, I need work, and I need a place to live, I don’t want to be a burden on anyone.”
His preference would be to work as a tour operator or for a tour company, a vocation in which he said he has years of experience. However, he stressed, he is prepared to work wherever he can find employment.
Streisand said his last name may prove to be helpful when it comes to finding work. “That name has always helped me,” he said. Everywhere he goes people ask him about his famous cousin Barbra.
Although his father and the renowned singer’s father are brothers, Dale Streisand doesn’t consider himself to be close to the star. During last year’s Typhoon however, he said he received a surprise phone call.
“Barbra’s agent called me, whom I know since I was a little boy, and somehow he found out through somebody that we were affected, and Barbra asked him to call me to make sure that we are okay,” he said. “I said we are on our way to Israel. He said, mazal tov.”
“It is ironic,” he said, to mark the contrast between the way his cousin, who visited Israel at the end of last year, and he, had been welcomed to the country.
The next steps for Streisand and his family are legal, and he is now awaiting the return of his lawyer from New York to challenge his current tourist status. But his greater interest is spiritual, and he sees his tough journey to Israel as similar to the journeys made by early Israeli pioneers.
“I believe everything happens for a reason,” he said. “I believe that it’s like the pioneers who came here 40 or 50 years ago. They had it really hard here and my wife and I are determined that whatever happens we have to take it the way it is.”
“We are not going to let some bureaucrats ruin our heartfelt desire to live in the land of our forefathers,” he declared.
Explaining what prompted his journey to Israel in the first place, he said his goal was to turn back the tide of assimilation that has strongly impacted his family. “After years of assimilation with my grandparents who came from Europe and then my parents who came to america, they gradually gave up this, they gave up that.”
“I can reverse that by coming here. No matter what happens to me, my children can remain in Israel and their children’s children, so I can reverse generations of assimilation, where they can get good strong Torah (bible) study and life.”
“I just have to go deeper and understand that Hashem (God) has a reason… ultimately I need to learn and gain from this,” he said.