An Australian national living in Israel has said he is subject to an 8,000-year travel ban unless he pays an outstanding £1.8m in child support payments.
Noam Huppert, a 44-year-old analytical chemist working for a pharmaceutical company, is not allowed to leave Israel until 31 December 9999 owing to a 2013 “stay of exit” order handed down after a family court case was brought by his ex-wife, according to news.com.au.
The court ruled Huppert must pay 5,000 shekels (£1,200) a month for each of his two children until they turn 18. It was not immediately clear whether Huppert has made any payments to date, or whether he must pay the entire sum in advance in order to lift the stay-of-exit order.
It appears the year 9999 was arbitrarily set because it was the highest possible date allowed by the online system. The Guardian has contacted Huppert for more information.
Huppert’s former spouse, an Israeli national, moved back to the country in 2011, when their children were aged three months and five years old. He followed in 2012, and says he has not been able to leave for any reason, including work – in the eight years since the court ruling.
“Since 2013, I am locked in Israel,” Huppert told news.com.au, adding that he was one of many foreign nationals “persecuted by the Israeli ‘justice’ system only because they were married to Israeli women” and that he was speaking out “to help others who may suffer this literally life-threatening experience”.
Israeli family law has been frequently criticized for discriminating against women. In 2018, the finance ministry found that 43% of divorced fathers refused to pay any child support to their ex-spouse, and single mothers who rely on the state for funds because the fathers of their children do not pay were hit by funding cuts this summer thanks to budget disputes.
A 2017 supreme court ruling, however, decided that fathers should no longer be solely responsible for alimony, particularly in cases where their ex-wives earn more money than they do.
“Truth be told, the core of family law in Israel – the laws of marriage and divorce – are characterized by a lack of equality between men and women,” Judge Noam Solberg said at the time. “Despite this, there is no justification for unequal division of child support payments.”
In its travel advice for Israel, the US state department includes a warning to citizens that Israel’s civil and religious courts “actively exercise their authority to bar certain individuals, including non-residents, from leaving the country until debts or other legal claims against them are resolved”.