(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Every IDF soldier should bring 1,000 Jewish immigrants to Israel and maybe it will be possible to bring two million more Jews, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said Sunday in a speech he delivered in the "2,000th Convert" ceremony. The event, in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's succa, was held to commemorate the conversion of 2,233 IDF soldiers to Judaism.
The conversion program, known as Nativ, is a joint effort of the IDF, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Ministry of Absorption.
Olmert hosted 36 immigrant soldiers who were in the process of completing an official conversion course as part of their army service.
In his speech, Ashkenazi emphasized the great knowledge the converts acquired during the program. "If only every native Israeli who has grown up here will possess the knowledge and the Jewish and national pride of the graduates of this course."
Ashkenazi went on to say that the conversion of immigrants was a "national mission that the IDF has taken upon itself with the encouragement of the prime minister."
During the event, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that "we must strive for much higher numbers that these 2,000 converts who have completed the course."
Barak expressed hope that soon "the rabbinic institution will reinforce the (more lenient) approach of Hillel on conversion."
"Israeli citizens have an "obligation to help immigrants complete their journey of connection to our roots," he added.