Israel: Who Are the People Requesting to Convert to Yiddishkheit?


tDuring a session of the Knesset Audit Committee on Tuesday, 19 Adar-II, participants learned that 50% of the candidates requesting to convert to Judaism annually is made up of foreign workers, PA (Palestinian Authority) illegals and others who cross into Israel illegally.

The law says that anyone who is not an Israeli citizen and does not fall under the Law of Return may begin the conversion process following approval by the exceptions committee. According to Knesset Audit Committee Chair Karin Alharrar of Yesh Atid, “Many people interested I converting encounter a long complicated process, and at times, technical problems and the Exceptions Committee does not provide a solution to these issues. The conglomeration of halachic/political and policy consideration isn’t healthy. The Exceptions Committee must hand over its authority [for giyur] to the Interior Ministry and the conversions apparatus will not submit an opinion regarding the integrity of the candidate [towards simplifying the process]”.

Rabbi Yitzchak Peretz, who is the person in the Prime Minister’s Office responsible for giyur explains at times, one has the right to appeal the decision of the Exceptions Committee, even a second and third time. “The conversion system was made to convert Israeli citizens and we do not grant citizenship. This is done by the Interior Ministry. The threshold of conditions is genuineness and that the applicant is not a foreign worker, illegal alien or illegal PA resident. In 2014 these groups represented 50% of the requests presented to the committee”.

Interior Ministry attorney Rina Nesher clarified the conditions set forth are independent of government policy. Deputy Defense Minister (Bayit Yehudi) Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan called for eliminating the Exceptions Committee, explaining “from my wealth of experience over the years, 90% of giyur-related complaints address 10% of the cases which are all handled by the committee. The situation is abnormal and demands we change it. The giyur process is a religious one and therefore it must be separated from granting one citizenship”. Ben-Dahan was the director-general of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel for many years and also the main aide to HaGaon HaRav Mordechai Eliyahu ZT”L ZY”A.

MK Elazar Stern of Yesh Atid added “The needs and distress of Israeli society results in more and more couples marrying outside the Chief Rabbinate and the Exceptions Committee drives many people from this too. Yesh Atid colleague MK Aliza Lavie called the giyur process in Israel “a bleeding wound”, adding in essence the state encourages people to leave since giyur is less complicated abroad than in Israel. Lavie concluded “Dayanim are capable of determining the motives of candidates and we do not need the bureaucrats of the Exceptions Committee”.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)