High Court rules on Jewish conversion; ICC probe of Israel: Israel Update


March 5, 2021


Israel's High Court of Justice ruled Monday that people who convert to Judaism in Israel through the Reform and Conservative movements must be recognized as Jews for the purpose of the Law of Return, and are thus entitled to Israeli citizenship. The decision, which shatters the longstanding Orthodox authority on officially recognized conversions in Israel, was the culmination of an appeal process that began more than 15 years ago, involving 12 people in the country who converted to Judaism through non-Orthodox denominations. The justices specified that they had previously withheld issuing a ruling to allow the state to handle the matter, but the state had failed to do so. The ruling comes with mixed views, as Jewish secular groups across the globe applauded the decision while more religious sects disapproved of the outcome. 


An International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor announced a formal investigation into possible war crimes in the Palestinian Territories, a move that was welcomed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and denounced by Israel. In a statement, ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said, “The decision to open an investigation followed a painstaking preliminary examination undertaken by my office that lasted close to five years.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the ICC's decision “undiluted antisemitism” and suggested the court turns a blind eye to war crimes in Iran and Syria. The US State Department came to Israel’s defense, releasing a statement that read in part, “The United States firmly opposes and is deeply disappointed by this decision.” PA President Mahmoud Abbas praised what he called: “the independence and courage of the prosecutor in defending truth and freedom.” The criminal investigation will likely focus on the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, Israeli settlement policy, and the 2018 Great March of Return protests


Israeli security officials are investigating a possible Iranian link to the recent oil spill in the Mediterranean that has polluted a majority of Israel's beaches. Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel maintained on Thursday that the spill was directly and intentionally caused by Iran, even as defense officials have said that the ecological disaster was not deliberate, but rather the result of a malfunction. According to a source from a company Israel consulted in the matter, the ship suspected of causing the oil spill may be guilty of deceptive shipping practices and delivering Iranian oil illegally, but not the ecological terrorism Gamliel is claiming. There is growing speculation that this incident could complicate the efforts of the United States and her European allies to bring Iran to the negotiation table for a new nuclear agreement. 


The number of serious coronavirus cases recorded in Israel fell to below 700 for the first time in months, according to the Israeli Health Ministry. This represents the lowest figure since December of 2020. The new data inspired Prime Minister Netanyahu to declare that the coronavirus was "behind us.” The claim was made by Israel's leader during a rare interview with Fox News, though it was quickly countered by coronavirus czar Nachman Ash, who told 103FM Radio that Israel could enter its fourth lockdown if the country’s basic reproduction number for the virus, also known as the R-number, exceeded 1.0. Any number over 1.0 would indicate the virus is again expanding its spread. As the possibility for another lockdown looms, unnamed health officials have told the Maariv newspaper that the reopening plan likely reflects Netanyahu’s desire to influence the upcoming national elections on March 23.


The safety, health, and well-being of all community members is a priority for the Jewish Federation. Like many of you, we are closely monitoring the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic. This page is consistently updated to help our community stay informed about efforts to support the community during this time. For detailed information about the COVID-19 vaccination, please see this page.


Shabbat Shalom, 


Jackie Congedo, Director, JCRC


P.S. If you or a friend would like to get our own, up-to-the-minute Israel Update, you can sign up here; when asked for "interests" click "weekly Israel Update."


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The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, JCRC’s national umbrella organization, is hosting two upcoming webinars:

  • March 8, 12 PM – Webinar - The Arab Vote a Watershed Moment in Israeli Politics

    Co-sponsored by JCPA and the Inter-Agency Task Force for Israeli Arab Issues.

    To register click here.

  • March 15, 12 PM – Webinar - Israeli Upcoming Elections: What’s at Stake? 

    To register click here


Forward Focus: A 4-part series focusing on religious diversity in Israel. In this series, we will hear from experts, religious leaders, and changemakers who will take us on a deep dive into the diversity of Jewish life in Israel. Explore Israel's fascinating landscape and what it means to be Jewish in our homeland by learning more and registering here.



Our JCRC is curating a diverse schedule of webinars, hosted by our local and national partners, on Israel and other issues related to our work. Click here to view this calendar.


Together, we can do virtually anything. If you or a loved one need help during this crisis, please reach out to our COVID-19 Hotline.



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Jackie Congedo, Director 

Jewish Community Relations Council 

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