14 day news roundup: Conversion ruling

Israeli news highlights from the past two weeks.

Supreme Court President Esther Hayut (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Supreme Court President Esther Hayut
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israel must grant citizenship to Jews who converted to Judaism under non-Orthodox auspices, the High Court of Justice ruled on March 1 in a landmark 8-1 decision written by Chief Justice Esther Hayut, with Justice Noam Sohlberg dissenting. The ruling was the culmination of a process that began more than 15 years ago, involving petitions from a dozen people who converted to Judaism in Israel via the Conservative and Reform movements. Coming three weeks before the March 23 election, it triggered a political firestorm, with secular and leftwing groups praising the decision while ultra-Orthodox and rightwing politicians vowed to advance legislation to overturn it in the next Knesset.
Israel partially reopened its skies to international travel on March 7, allowing Israelis to enter and leave the country on authorized flights. Under a plan approved by the corona cabinet, up to 3,000 citizens a day are able to enter the country without special permission from the governmental exemptions committee. Fully vaccinated or recovered travelers were permitted to travel to and from New York, Paris, Frankfurt and Kiev.
The US stands with Israel against the International Crriminal Court’s decision on March 3 to investigate the Jewish state for suspected war crimes in Palestinian territories.,Vice President Kamala Harris told  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  in a telephone call a day later. According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Harris voiced “the administration’s complete opposition to the decision of the prosecutor of the ICC.”  Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz sparked an uproar from the rightwing by saying he believed “there were grounds” for ICC  Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’ s decision. 
President Reuven Rivlin formally received the credentials of the United Arab Emirates’s first ambassador to Israel, Mohamed Al Khaja, at a ceremony at the presidential residence in Jerusalem on March 1. After greeting Khaja in Arabic, Rivlin said, “The entire Israeli people welcomes you with joy.” The new envoy pledged to “work tirelessly to strengthen the political ties between our two countries, in the service of our peoples and regional stability.”
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, a leading expert on contemporary antisemitism and former chairman of the Steering Committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, died on February 25. Born in Vienna in 1937, Gerstenfeld survived the Holocaust in Amsterdam, made aliyah with his wife in was an award-winning author of 10 books on antisemitism, including The War of a Million Cuts, and among the honors he received were the 2019 International Lion of Judah Award from the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research and the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s International Leadership Award.
The Dangoor Family pledged £2 million from The Exilarch’s Foundation, the family’s charitable foundation, to the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI), whose patron is Queen Elizabeth II and was founded in 1831 – the largest ever gift to the world’s oldest think tank. “I believe that the work of RUSI has become increasingly important in these challenging times and it deserves our support,” said British Jewish entrepreneur David Dangoor, Exilarch of The Exilarch’s Foundation. and overseas.”
Education Minister Yoav Gallant announced on March 2 that ZAKA chairman and founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav would receive the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement. “For three decades, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav has headed the ZAKA Search and Rescue organization, which has become an essential arm in rescue efforts, saving lives and identifying the victims in mass disasters in Israel and around the world,” he said. Meshi-Zahav, who recently lost his brother and his parents within a month, said: “In a month full of tears of pain and sorrow after the triple family loss that I have suffered, finally my eyes shed tears of happiness.”