Israel News for April 1, 2016

Conversions Sanctioned
Israel’s Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the State must recognize Orthodox conversions performed outside of Israel as valid under the Law of Return and that the converts must be registered by the Interior Ministry in the population registry as Jews.

Prior to the ruling the Chief Rabbinate had complete control over determining what conversions, performed abroad, to accept as valid. Only conversions by Orthodox rabbis approved by the Rabbinate (they have a list) were recognized. While those converted by rabbis not on the “list”, including non Orthodox rabbis, were eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return, they were not registered as Jewish. As a result, they could not marry in Israel, since all marriages must be registered by the Chief Rabbinate (although, as we reported a while back, the rabbinic court of the Haredi community – Edah Haredit – can also register marriages).

The Supreme Court ruling seems to wrest total control over conversions from the hands of the Chief Rabbinate. But the Court made it clear that its ruling only refers to conversions performed by Orthodox rabbis in Orthodox communities outside of Israel. That didn’t make the Chief Rabbinate feel any better about the ruling. It wants to be the sole determiner of “who is a Jew” in Israel, and has fought vehemently against an alternative rabbinic court established by National Religious Orthodox rabbis in Israel to perform conversions. The Supreme Court’s ruling does not apply to conversions performed in Israel.

Rabbi Seth Farber, the director of ITIM, an organization that helps converts deal with the Chief Rabbinate, said, “This is a game changer for conversion in Israel, because it says black and white that the Chief Rabbinate does not have a monopoly on conversion in the Jewish state. This paves the way for hundreds of converts who converted through Giyur Kahalacha [the alternative rabbinic court in Israe] to be registered as full Jews in Israel. Over the coming months we hope to engage both the government and the Chief Rabbinate to address how Giyur Kahlacha’s conversions can be recognized by it for the purposes of marriage.”

The Chief Rabbis along with ultra-Orthodox government ministers and Knesset members attacked the court’s ruling and pledged to pass legislation to circumvent. They claim that the court has no right to meddle in religious issues that are protected by the “status quo.” Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau stated, “The Supreme Court and its justices will not decide who is a Jew; only the torah of Israel will.”

Will the Supreme Courts ruling really have a practical effect? Yes, converts who convert outside of Israel by Orthodox rabbis will have to be registered as Jews by the Interior Ministry. But the rabbinate still controls marriage registration. So when the convert goes to register for marriage with their local rabbinate, the rabbis can still refuse to register them, claiming that their conversion was invalid. Just because they are registered as Jews by the government does not preclude the rabbinate from finding a reason not to register them for marriage.

So while the court’s ruling certainly puts pressure on the rabbinate and sets a precedent for further action to take full control over conversion from the Chief Rabbinate, it remains to be seen whether the ruling will have any practical effect.

For further reading click here.

Abbas Speaks
In an apparent bid to boost his image with the West and counter claims by PM Netanyahu that he refuses to meet with him to discuss peace, PA President Abbas told Channel 2 News that he is working hard to fight terror. He said, “Our security forces go into the schools to search pupils’ bags and see if they have knives. You don’t know this. In one school, we found 70 boys and girls who were carrying knives. We took the knives and spoke to them and said: ‘This is a mistake. We do not want you to kill and be killed. We want you to live, and for the other side to live as well.'”

Regarding meeting the PM Abbas said, “I will meet with him, at any time. And I suggested, by the way, for him to meet.” He declined to reveal why his suggestion didn’t come to fruition.

Abbas said he was willing to take action against Palestinians that Israeli intelligence deems a threat. “If he (Netanyahu) gives me responsibility and tells me that he believes in (the) two-state solution and we sit around the table to talk about (the) two-state solution, this will give my people hope, and nobody dares to go and stab or shoot or do anything here or there.”

Do you believe him?

For further reading click here.

Tank Hit
In an IDF training exercise on the Golan Heights yesterday, a tank was struck by a shell fired from another tank. Miraculously, despite receiving a direct hit and sustaining serious damage, the second tank’s crew was unharmed. On inspection, it was revealed that the tank’s armor had prevented the shell from penetrating, though the tank itself was severely damaged. But I’ll stick with the miracle theory.

For further reading click here.

Dubai Baby
A pregnant woman from Dubai was entering the West Bank from Jordan via the Allenby border crossing when she began feeling contractions. An IDF officer who was present at the scene gave her initial medical treatment at the border crossing, after which he accompanied her to a hospital in Jericho.

The woman was so thankful to the officer, that she named her baby after him – Hadi. The officer was Druze. But still…

The Palestinian media is trying to deny the story. Of course.

For further reading click here.