Knesset to debate rabbinic court's move to nix conversion

Government ministers, the rabbinic courts and the Chief Rabbinate - as well as of the converts themselves - have been invited to the meeting.

In a conflict that has pitted religious factions against one another, a rabbinic court's decision to retroactively nullify a conversion is expected to be discussed in the Knesset Monday. Opponents of the decision on Sunday said their stance held a wide base of support in the Knesset, with each of what MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) termed the "Zionist parties" opposing the rabbinic court's ability to nullify conversions. "The High Court chopped down the branch on which it was sitting," National Religious Party chairman Zevulun Orlev said. "Its political and anti-Zionist ruling proves that there is no choice but to establish alternative conversion courts under the state's authority, in which the judges will have served in the IDF and added thanksgiving prayers for the establishment of the state on Independence Day." He said he was planning to propose a law that would remove the rabbinic courts' authority to deal with conversion. Public Petitions Committee chairwoman Sofa Landver (Israel Beiteinu) announced Sunday that following dozens of urgent petitions by citizens, her committee would hold an emergency meeting Monday, in spite of the current recess, to discuss the issue. Representatives from government ministries, the rabbinic courts and the Chief Rabbinate - as well as of the converts themselves - have been invited to the meeting. It is unclear what immediate result, if any, is expected as a result of the emergency session. "This matter is important to all of the parties and to all of the house," said Landver. "How can people cancel this conversion? We are simply beginning to be a state of a small handful of ultra-religious people, and that is not acceptable. Now that this is becoming a political war, we will fight back." Rotem, who has spearheaded his party's campaign to place the authority for conversions at the level of the municipal rabbinate, was even more emphatic, describing the rabbinic court's ruling as an attack against the authority of the state. "The implications of this ruling fell upon the State of Israel as a whole as soon as the court canceled the conversion carried out by [Conversion Authority head] Rabbi [Haim] Druckman, who was appointed by the state to oversee the conversion process," he said. "If we don't solve this problem, it will lead to a catastrophe." Rotem said that with the likely support of left-wing parties, as well as the NU/NRP and his own party, he believed that the issue could even topple the government should the rabbinic court's ruling not be overturned. He added that he planned on submitting a personal appeal to the High Court of Justice, arguing that the ruling itself was a criminal act. Rotem said he believed that the court's ruling and the subsequent furor could help garner support for his legislation on municipal-level conversions, a proposal that will begin the voting process in the first week of the upcoming Knesset session.