Israel state conversion program to continue operations, Bennett says

Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) tweeted that to allow Nativ to close would be “foolish,” and said he would “make every effort in the coming days to prevent this failure.”

THE JERUSALEM conversion office of the Chief Rabbinate (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
THE JERUSALEM conversion office of the Chief Rabbinate
Nativ, the state-sponsored body which provides lessons and educational content for conversion candidates, faces an unprecedented shut down, after its director alleged that repeated requests to the Prime Minister’s Office for the funds to keep the organization running have been ignored.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) tweeted late Thursday night that the crisis had been solved and the budget increased, but well-placed sources told The Jerusalem Post that written confirmation of the budget increase had not yet been received, and that as long as that was the case, the organization would still be closing its doors.
Written confirmation was not provided by press time.
Nativ is currently running classes around the country for approximately 2,500 conversion candidates, including both civilians and soldiers.
Its annual budget is some NIS 40 million, with some of the money coming from the Jewish Agency and other organizations, but most coming from the Prime Minister’s Office.
This year, however, Nativ has experienced a large increase in the number of candidates embarking on its conversion courses, double the usual annual figure, and has therefore exhausted its budget just half way through the year.
Nativ director Jonathan Meir warned that all of Nativ’s activities would have to stop at midnight between Thursday and Friday because the NIS 20m. he has requested has not been transferred.
In a letter on Wednesday, Meir informed the head of the National Conversion Authority, Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz, that as of June 1, all studies would be halted, IDF conversion candidates living in Nativ accommodation would be sent home, and Nativ’s 180 teachers would be fired.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Meir said he had sent repeated requests to the Prime Minister’s Office and to cabinet secretary Tzachi Braverman over recent weeks and months, and had been told on several occasions that the matter was being dealt with, including during the course of Thursday, but has yet to receive the extra funding.
“We have managed to double the number of conversion candidates which is an amazing success, but we therefore need a higher budget, and if we don’t get more funds we’ll be forced to close for the first time in history,” said Meir.
Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie called on Braverman and Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) to solve the crisis immediately.
“Conversion is an issue of the highest national importance which will impact the character and future of Israeli society, [and] we must expand not close this framework,” said Lavie. “If the government doesn’t know how to find this minuscule amount of money for the continuation of Nativ, it will be a disgrace that testifies to a twisted order of priorities.”
The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to a request for comment by press time.