The High court of Justice ordered the state to recognize Conservative and Reform conversions to Judaism, sending the political and religious scenes into a spin.
In its ruling issued on Monday, the High Court ordered the state to recognize Reform and Conservative conversions done in Israel on the basis of the Law of Return, which gives Jews the right to come and live in Israel and to gain Israeli citizenship.
In their decision, the judges emphasized that “this decision is limited to the civil-public question of granting status under the Law of Return and does not deal with a religious question.”
The court ruled that as long as the legislature did not note otherwise, Jews who converted to Judaism in a Reform or Conservative community in Israel should be recognized as Jews for the purposes of the Law of Return and obtaining citizenship, giving a very broad interpretation of the term “Jew” as mentioned by the law.
The court emphasized that its decision does not prevent the Knesset from rectifying the concept of conversion in the Law of Return in the future.
This is the first time the Court has recognized Reform and Conservative conversions.
Minister of Interior Aryeh Deri, of the religious Shas party, rejected the ruling as “wrong, very unfortunate and will cause controversy and a severe rift among the people.”
He vowed to amend the law so that only conversion according to orthodox Halacha will be recognized in Israel.
Both Chief Rabbis of Israel came out against the ruling.
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau stated that “those who converted to Judaism in a Reform conversion and the like are not Jews, no High Court decision of any kind will change this fact.”
“It is unfortunate that the court in its decision approves the flooding of the State of Israel with immigrants who have nothing to do with Judaism. Every citizen of Israel should ask himself on this sad evening, why the State of Israel is a Jewish state when every foreigner can be a citizen of the State of Israel,” he said.
Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef said the Court’s decision “is very unfortunate and seriously undermines the integrity of Israel. The court also denied the requests to wait with its decision until the law is enacted.”
“What the Reform and Conservative call ‘conversion’ is nothing but a falsification of Judaism which means bringing thousands of Gentiles into the Nation of Israel,” he warned.
“Public figures should be expected to act for a speedy correction in the legislation as soon as possible,” he demanded.
Member of Knesset (MK) Mai Golan wrote that the court ruling means that “an illegal infiltrator can undergo a reform conversion in 10 minutes and receive Israeli citizenship.”
She comes from south Tel Aviv, one of the strongholds of illegal immigrants from Africa.
Several lawmakers called for reforms in the High Court, which is often perceived as being left-wing and progressive in a manner that does not reflect the opinions and sentiments of the majority of the country’s citizens.