April 2018 | Pluralism Update

Quarterly iRep Update On Key Issues Relating To Religion And State In Israel

Volume 7, April 2018

This Religion and State Update covers the period from January-April 2018.


In the beginning of April 2018, the government announced that it is working on new legislation regulating conversions and a draft bill will be presented to the PM soon. This announcement was made in connection with a petition pending in the Supreme Court on the status of Reform and Conservative conversions in Israel. The new legislation will be part of the recommendations by former Minister Moshe Nissim who was appointed by the PM to propose a compromise to end the conversion crisis that erupted in June 2017.The recommendation will be to create a new government authority on conversion whose members will be approved by the Rabbinate, essentially ensuring all members of the new authority would be Orthodox. All private conversions in Israel will be invalid (Orthodox, Reform or Conservative).

A March 2016 Supreme Court ruling recognized the right of individuals who underwent private Orthodox conversions in Israel to become citizens under the Law of Return. The ultra-Orthodox vowed to take measures to ensure the Supreme Court does not grant similar recognition to non-Orthodox conversions performed in Israel.

Last summer, the Israeli Ministerial Committee on Legislation declared its support for controversial legislation on the issue of conversion. The draft bill at issue at the time, submitted by Shas leader and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, would have the State of Israel recognizing only conversions implemented under the supervision of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.

Following opposition by coalition ministers, MKs, and public outcry from the Diaspora, Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered consideration of the bill to be postponed for six months. He appointed former Likud Minister Moshe Nissim to examine the issue, and Nissim is about to submit his recommendations and legislative proposal soon. The State is required to update the court on its progress by the middle of May 2018. 

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In March 2018, the State rejected the validity of private Orthodox conversions performed in Israel through “Giyur Ka`Halacha”, an independent conversion court established in Israel by prominent modern-Orthodox rabbis. The Ministry of Interior refused to recognize as Jewish a woman converted through Giyur Ka`Halacha, despite the fact that the legality of these conversions was recognized by the Supreme Court back in 2016.

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In March 2018, the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs released a report recommending that Israel strengthens ties with 60 million people who have an affinity to Judaism around the world, in order to strengthen Israel’s standing in the world. The plan calls for introducing Jewish and Israeli studies, launching public diplomacy projects, and finding a framework for some of them to convert to Judaism and make Aliyah. The report was criticized by rabbis saying that Judaism is not a proselytizing religion.

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