Ben-Gvir calls to end recognition of Reform conversions for aliyah

Ben-Gvir wishes to establish a situation in which only those who have been converted by Orthodox rabbis will be entitled to immigrate to Israel according to the Law of Return.

 Head of the Otzma Yehudit party MK Itamar Ben Gvir and members of the party speak to the press after a meeting with Israeli president Isaac Herzog at the President's residence in Jerusalem on November 10, 2022. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Head of the Otzma Yehudit party MK Itamar Ben Gvir and members of the party speak to the press after a meeting with Israeli president Isaac Herzog at the President's residence in Jerusalem on November 10, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Otzma Yehudit Chairman MK Itamar Ben-Gvir has demanded to overturn the High Court ruling recognizing Reform conversion for the purpose of the Law of Return, KAN Radio reported on Sunday.

Ben-Gvir has added the new demand to bring to prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, as part of coalition negotiations. His goal is to cancel the ruling that recognizes Reform conversions to Judaism for those who are interested in making aliyah and immigrating to Israel.

Since 1970, Israel’s Law of Return has applied not only to people who are considered Jews according to Orthodox law but also to converts from the Reform and Conservative movements – despite their conversions not being recognized by the Chief Rabbinate in Israel.

"Ben-Gvir is dangerous to the Jewish people because he threatens to cut the delicate seams that bind Israel and the Diaspora at the most sensitive point.”

Reform Rabbi Adv. Uri Regev

According to KAN, Ben-Gvir wants to establish a situation where only those who have been converted by Orthodox rabbis will be entitled to immigrate to Israel according to the Law of Return. In addition, according to the report, the party is formulating a move to coordinate the demand with the other coalition partners, all of which are Orthodox: the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties United Torah Judaism and Shas, as well as the Religious Zionist Party and Noam.

Will Ben-Gvir cause a rift between Israel and Diaspora Jewry?

Responding to Ben-Gvir’s statement, Diaspora Affairs Minister Dr. Nachman Shai said that canceling the clause recognizing Reform conversion will cause “a rift between us and the richest and strongest Jewish community in the world.” He added that canceling the recognition sends a message to Diaspora Jews that they “are not part of us.”

 Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai.  (credit: ASI EFRATI) Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai. (credit: ASI EFRATI)

“Ben-Gvir is dangerous to the Jewish people because he threatens to cut the delicate seams that bind Israel and the Diaspora at the most sensitive point,” said Reform Rabbi Adv. Uri Regev, CEO of the Hiddush Organization for Religious Freedom and Equality.

“A government that, God forbid, touches the Law of Return is a government that has forgotten what it is to be a Zionist."

Dr. Yizhar Hess, WZO

“It is important to understand that those who seek to undermine the High Court ruling and strengthen the Chief Rabbinate also want to cancel the State of Israel’s recognition of Modern Orthodox converts, against whom the Rabbinate struggles just as much as it struggles against Reform and Conservative converts.”

“As the challenging task of forming a new government gets underway, we believe that it is critical to ensure our relations with world Jewry remain intact and that the everlasting commitment to enable Jews from all corners of the globe to make aliyah must be upheld,” said chairman of the executive of the Jewish Agency Maj.-Gen. (Res.) Doron Almog.

“At this time, we believe that nothing is more important than the unity of the Jewish people, including all its denominations, as well as protecting the strategic relations with world Jewry through ongoing dialogue,” he said. “The Jewish Agency will continue to be the bridge connecting Israel and Jews the world over.”

World Zionist Organization deputy chair Dr. Yizhar Hess responded to Ben-Gvir’s comments, saying: “A government that, God forbid, touches the Law of Return is a government that has forgotten what it is to be a Zionist.

“The Law of Return is the DNA of the Zionist movement,” he said. “The Law of Return is the basis of the idea that the State of Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people.”