Israeli identity card
بطاقة هوية / biţāqat huwīya)
An example of the old Teudat Zehut
|Eligibility requirements||16 years of age
legal permanent residence status (including non-citizens)
|Expiration||10 years after acquisition, or July 2022, the later of the two|
Any resident sixteen years of age or older must at all times carry an Identity card, and present it upon demand to a senior police officer, head of Municipal or Regional Authority, or a policeman or member of the Armed forces on duty. — חוק החזקת תעודת זהות והצגתה (Identity Card Carrying and Displaying Act of 1982) on the Hebrew Wikisource.
Law and common practice
Criminal offence carries a 5,000 Old Israeli shekel fine for not carrying an identity card or for misuse of the document (in 1983 prices, which equals about 1,400 NIS today). However, the law explicitly forbids pressing charges in case the offender contacted the relevant authorities within five days and identified himself properly. Furthermore, in December 2011, a Peace Court (Magistrate Court) in the Krayot region acquitted an Israeli citizen from Nahariya who refused to present his identity card before a policeman upon the policeman's request. The judge ruled that the current reading of the law must be in the spirit of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty (enacted in 1992), hence such a refusal should be deemed legitimate unless the state-official has a reason to suspect that the person before him have committed an offence.
In addition to the above-mentioned law, the identity card is required in order to exercise certain civil rights. Until recently it was the only valid identification for voting in general elections, however since 2005 the law also permits the use of a valid driving license or a valid Israeli passport for this purpose. When not specifically required by law, other identification may be used. In Israel, access to many office buildings or guarded areas requires showing an ID.
Identity cards are issued by the Israeli Ministry of Interior, through offices across the country. The document is issued to all residents over 16 years old who have legal permanent residence status, including non-citizens. Up until July 2012, the document had no expiry date, and it could be used as long as it is intact. Since July 2012, any new identity cards issued expire after 10 years, and any previously issued cards will expire in July 2022. 
The card is laminated and held in one of the two inner compartments of its plastic cover, and includes the following personal details:
- unique number, called Identity Number
- full name (surname/last name, given name)
- name of father
- name of mother
- date of birth (both civil and, unless otherwise requested, the Hebrew date as well)
- ethnicity (only in cards issued before 2005)
- place and date of issue (both Gregorian and Hebrew date)
- portrait photo (in color)
There is also a separate document appendix, a folded paper contained in the other inner compartment, listing the following:
- current address
- previous addresses
- previous name(s)
- citizenship (the bearer may be a permanent resident with a foreign citizenship)
- name, birth date and identity number of spouse and children
- electoral polling station stamp: the appendix used to be stamped at the polling station to help prevent ballot stuffing. This regulation is abolished since 1992, so that the voter may now use an ID card without an appendix.
Question of ethnicity
Prior to 2005 Israeli Identity Cards included a reference to the bearer's ethnic group. The official term for this category in Hebrew was le'om (לאום), and it was officially translated into Arabic as qawmīya (قومية). These terms could be translated into English as "nation", but in the sense of ethnic affiliation rather than citizenship. The le'om attribution was assigned by the Ministry of Interior regardless of the card bearer's preference. There were several attributions, the main ones being: Jewish, Arab, Druze and Circassian. Identity Cards issued before 2005 included a disclaimer written in small print in Hebrew and Arabic indicating that the card may serve as a prima facie proof for the data it includes except le'om, marital status and the spouse's name.
There have been some fierce legal battles about identifying the ethnicity of the bearer in the Israeli Identity card. In the 2000s, the ethnicity indicator began to be officially phased out. In 2002, the Supreme Court of Israel instructed the Ministry of Interior to indicate the ethnicity of people who underwent a Reform conversion as Jews. The minister at the time, Eli Yishai, a member of Shas, an Haredi party, decided he would drop the ethnicity category altogether, rather than list as Jews people whom he considered non-Jews. In 2004, the Supreme Court denied a citizen's petition to reinstate this indicator, stating that the field in the document was meant for statistical collection only, and not as a declarative statement of Judaism. As of 2005, the ethnicity has not been printed; a line of eight asterisks appears instead. The bearer's ethnic identity can nevertheless be inferred by other data - the Hebrew calendar's date of birth is often used for Jews, and also, each community has its typical first and last names.
The state's registration which serves as the basis for the data in the Identity Cards still indicates the ethnicity of each person, and this information is available upon request in certain circumstances determined by the registration law.
An amendment to the Israeli registration law approved by the Knesset in 2007 determines that a Jew may ask to remove the Hebrew date from his entry, and consequently from his Identity Card. This is due to errors that often occur in the registration of the Hebrew date because the Hebrew calendar day starts at sunset and not at midnight. The amendment also introduces an explicit definition for the term "a day according to the Hebrew calendar".
ID card casing and variations
The colour of the plastic casing of the Identity card of Israeli citizens and permanent residents is blue, with the Israeli Coat of Arms embossed on the outer cover. Non-Israeli residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were issued ID cards by the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria (and Gaza until 2005), which had an almost identical layout as the Israeli card (the differences being that the surname category came after the first name, father's name, and grandfather's name categories instead of at the top, and the "ethnicity" category was replaced with a "religion" category). The casings for these cards were orange (West Bank ) or red (Gaza Strip) with the Israel Defense Forces insignia embossed on the outer cover. Palestinians who were barred from entering Israel were issued ID cards with green casings instead of orange to identify them as such. Since the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority, the PNA issues its residents with Palestinian ID cards based on Israeli approval. They are identical to the Israeli Civil Administration cards save for the order of languages being switched, with Arabic coming before Hebrew, and the plastic casing being dark green with the PNA insignia embossed on the outer cover. Israel controls the Palestinian population registry per the Interim Agreements, and assigns the ID numbers for Palestinian ID cards.
Israel began issuing ID cards to Palestinian residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip following their capture in the 1967 war.
Remarks and references
- Court: There is no Obligation to Present an Identity Card upon a Policeman's Request, by Revital Hovel, Haaretz, 5 Dec 2011 (in Hebrew).
- Amendment no. 54 to article no. 74 of the Election Law, approved by the Knesset on December 5, 2005.
- For example, the Al-Aqsa mosque area in Jerusalem, Azrieli Towers in Tel Aviv, Aviv Towers in Ramat Gan and many others.
- Who is a Jew?
- Identity document
- Jewish identity and inter-religious marriages in Reform Judaism
- Israeli passport