(photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan said on Wednesday that ritual
baths, or mikvaot, could be used by Conservative and Reform groups for their
conversion process, even though the Chief Rabbinate does not recognize
conversions conducted by non-Orthodox Jewish denominations.
speaking during a hearing of the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee, which was
reviewing the operations of the Religious Services Ministry.
converts have until now been prevented by the Religious Services Ministry and
the Chief Rabbinate from using state-run mikvaot.
In response to a
question from attorney Yizhar Hess, the director of the Conservative movement in
Israel, Ben- Dahan said that “any Jew from any denomination, including
Conservative and Reform Jews, can use the mikvaot, even for the purposes of
Although the state recognizes Conservative and Reform
converts as Jewish, the rabbinate does not, thereby preventing them from
marrying a Jewish partner in Israel.
“Religious services are for all Jews
in the State of Israel and everyone can use these services,” said Ben-Dahan. “I
emphasize that the religious services which are provided are within the
framework of Jewish law,” he added, however.
Although a certain amount of
confusion reigned after Ben-Dahan’s comments were made public, Hess cautiously
welcomed the new position saying that he hoped the deputy-minister “would stand
be his guarantee: to allow Reform and Conservative converts to immerse in
mikvaot throughout the country as part of the completion of their conversion
Addressing a separate topic, the deputy minister said that he
and the ministry did not oppose lengthening the period of summer daylight-saving
time, something which has been a source of controversy several times in the
Since 2005, DST has ended before Yom Kippur so that the fast
finishes earlier in the day, but the restricted period of DST, significantly
shorter than in Europe and the US, led to protests and political
“We are in favor [of extending DST], there is no reason to
oppose it. Yom Kippur is 25 hours long, it doesn’t matter at which point in time
[it is observed],” Ben-Dahan told the committee.
Miri Regev said she was happy he had answered in the affirmative.
as a religious person say it doesn’t bother those who are praying, then we can
connect [different] populations to work toward this,” she said.
ago, more than 300,000 people signed an online petition calling on the
government to extend DST.