Liberman files High Court petition demanding end to rabbinate's DNA tests

“It is outrageous to hear that only immigrants from the former Soviet Union are suspected time after time by the rabbinical courts that they are ‘non-Jews’,” said Liberman.

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April 8, 2019 03:52
2 minute read.
Former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman launches Yisrael Beitenu on January 20, 2019

Former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman launches Yisrael Beitenu on January 20, 2019. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman personally filed a petition to the High Court of Justice on Sunday which demands that the Chief Rabbinate and the rabbinical courts cease using DNA testing as a way of helping to prove Jewish status.

Last month, Chief Rabbi David Lau acknowledged that DNA tests are sometimes used in a small number of cases to help determine the Jewish status of individuals for whom the rabbinical court is not convinced are in fact Jewish.

The tests are controversial however since they cannot definitively prove Jewish status, only act as an aide, although some rabbinical courts have refused to register marriage for individuals refusing to them.

ITIM, a religious services NGO, says it has seen approximately 20 cases in recent months where the rabbinical courts have requested DNA testing for individuals seeking to prove they are Jewish, mostly for the purposes of registering for marriage.

Yisrael Beytenu said Liberman had filed the petition after he had requested the Chief Rabbinate halt their use but was rebuffed.

Three women were party to the petitions along with Yisrael Beytenu, all of whom are immigrants from the former Soviet Union who had been requested by the rabbinical courts to do the DNA tests, despite according to the party the fact that “their Jewishness had been proved in the past through various means.”

The petition was filed against the chief rabbis, the Council of the Chief Rabbinate, the Rabbinical Courts Administration, the Religious Services Ministry, and the Interior Ministry.

“It is outrageous to hear that only immigrants from the former Soviet Union are suspected time after time by the rabbinical courts that they are ‘non-Jews,’” said Liberman.

“They are even forced to go through these discriminatory, humiliating, and disgraceful DNA tests in order to prove their Jewishness. Forcing people who immigrated from a certain region to do these tests cannot be allowed to become something normal.”

The Chief Rabbinate argues that no one is forced to undergo these tests, but Liberman and others have pointed out that the only way to marry in Israel is through the Chief Rabbinate. By refusing to register such people for marriage unless they do a genetic test the institution is essentially forcing them to take the tests.

“We would never force someone to do this though,” Chief Rabbi David Lau said in March.

“And it should be emphasized that a DNA test is not used to determine Jewish status in accordance with Jewish law and only to assist in the clarification [process].”


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