December 27, 2021
Israel’s strict “stay of exit” policy allows authorities to stop anyone, including foreign nationals, from leaving the country until their debts are repaid. The order is often applied by former spouses after a divorce to ensure the prompt payment of child support.
An Australian national has reportedly been confined to Israel for 7,978 years, until 31 December 9999 unless he is able to pay a $3 million+ in child support debt, Australian and Israeli media report.
Noam Huppert, a 44-year-old Australian analytical chemist, said he moved to Israel in 2012 to be closer to his two young children after his ex-wife left Australia and took them to her native land.
Shortly after, Huppert says, his former spouse took him to court, which issued a stay-of-exit order against him, prohibiting him from leaving the country until he has proactively paid off his “future debt” of 5,000 Israeli shekels (about $1,600 US) a month until both children, who were aged five years and less than one year old at the time, turned 18.
Huppert says the total child support amount calculated in 2013 was roughly 7.5 million shekels ($3.34 million US). Until the debt is paid, the man says, he won’t be allowed to leave Israel for any reason, even for work.
“Since 2013, I am locked in Israel”, he told News.com.au.
Huppert believes there are “thousands” of other foreign men like him who are trapped in Israel under the “stay of exit” order, whose existence is little known and little reported on outside the country. Huppert told the outlet he hoped his story would “help other Australians who may suffer this literally life-threatening experience”.
Israel’s child support laws are extremely strict, and foreign ex-spouses can not only be locked inside the country, but face imprisonment for up to three weeks at a time each time they fail to make a payment. Former spouses can, like Huppert was, be ordered to pay the entire child support amount forward until their children are adults.
“No Exit Order: Documentary Movie” features dozens of testimonials by foreign nationals from around the world, including Americans, Swedes, Canadians, Spaniards, and others who are trapped in Israel under the “stay of exit” order. In addition to child support, the order can be applied for a variety of other reasons, from debts big or small to overstaying on a visa. Some of the foreigners testify that in addition to being unable to leave Israel, they have been barred from doing basic things like working, claiming benefits, studying, getting a driver’s license, opening a bank account, or starting a business.
The US State Department has a warning on its Israel travel advisory website warning that “civil and religious courts in Israel actively exercise their authority to bar certain individuals, including nonresidents, from leaving the country until debts or other legal claims against them are resolved…US citizens, including those without Israeli citizenship, should be aware that they may be subject to involuntary and prolonged stays (and even imprisonment) in Israel if a case is filed against them in a religious court, even if their marriage took place in the United States, and regardless of whether their spouse is present in Israel”.
“The US Embassy is unable to cancel the debt of a US citizen or guarantee their departure from Israel when they face a bar from leaving the country until debts are resolved”, the State Department says.
The Israeli government website features a tool allowing people preparing to travel outside the country to check whether they have a stay of exit order against them, either online or by calling a special hotline.
The Israeli government does not provide any statistics on the exact number of people, including foreigners, affected by the “stay of exit” order. However, Marianne Azizi, a journalist and lawyer who has spent years investigating the matter, says “hundreds” of Australians may be affected, and that a source at the British Embassy told her several years ago that they were “getting around 100 enquiries a month” on the matter.