Contentious haredi conversion bill approved for passage to the Knesset

Approval of bill represents second big defeat for progressive Jewish streams and moderate Orthodox groups.

June 25, 2017 17:17
2 minute read.
Hapoel Jerusalem’s Bar Timor and Eilat’s Afik Nissim

THE JERUSALEM conversion office of the Chief Rabbinate – once the majority of Israeli citizens no longer connect to the Jewish nature of Israel, we will be left with a soulless country that is constantly fighting for its very existence.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

A controversial law advanced by the haredi parties to grant the Chief Rabbinate a total monopoly over Jewish conversion in Israel was approved for passage to the Knesset by the government on Sunday.

The legislation received the backing of the majority of the ministers in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, despite the opposition of Defense Minister and Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman and his party colleague and Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofia Landver.

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Sources inside Yisrael Beytenu told The Jerusalem Post that the party is considering appealing the bill, which would then require approval in the full cabinet before passing to the Knesset.

The conversion legislation will revoke the de facto state recognition of Orthodox conversions through independent, Orthodox rabbinical courts, and the right of Reform and Masorti (Conservative) converts to register in the Interior Ministry as Jewish.

The passage of the bill represents the second massive blow dealt to the progressive Jewish denominations on Sunday following the permanent freeze on implementing the Western Wall agreement also approved by the government on Sunday.

The new legislation on conversion will also threaten the viability of the new Orthodox rabbinical court for conversion called Giyur Ka’halacha, whose goals is to convert as many immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are not Jewish according to religious law to avoid an intermarriage crisis in Israel.

The legislation is a government bill that has been advanced by Shas and United Torah Judaism through the Interior Ministry which is controlled by Shas Chairman and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri.

The proposed law states explicitly that it is designed to reverse the new legal situation created by a ruling of the High Court of Justice in March 2016 which de facto granted the right to citizenship to Orthodox converts who were not citizens and who converted through independent Orthodox rabbinical courts and not through the State Conversion Authority.

This ruling was a blow to the Chief Rabbinate and the religious establishment and set a precedent whereby it was possible to envision a situation where the Chief Rabbinate would be forced to recognize non-state Orthodox converts for the purposes of marriage.

The new bill is also explicitly aimed at preemptively overcoming a possible High Court ruling on a similar, pending case, which could see Reform and Conservative converts given state recognition like non-state Orthodox converts were last year.

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