Eight thousand enlisted soldiers are not Jewish, the head of
IDF education, Brigadier General Eliezer Stern, told the
Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee last week.
He said he was alerted to the problem when he "was asked to
provide soldiers, based on their request, several hundred
copies of the [Christian Bible] to take the IDF oath."
Committee Chairman MK Colette Avital (Labor) called for
increased efforts to encourage soldiers to convert. She said
only 500 non-Jewish soldiers registered for Jewish Studies
courses designed to prepare candidates for conversion and
only a few dozen eventually converted. Avital demanded the
creation of a "friendly" conversion procedure in order to
draw more soldiers.
Stern claims the current conversion procedure is already
"friendly," saying at first only 36 soldiers were enrolled in
the course whereas today there are hundreds.
IDF Chief Rabbi Brigadier General Yisrael Weiss said it is
not his task to make conversion attractive to soldiers,
saying he is obligated to operate according to halocho alone,
which requires that the convert agrees to observe all of the
mitzvos, and that he cannot compromise in this matter.
MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni said only six percent of the non- Jewish
immigrants want to convert and even fewer among IDF soldiers.
He stressed that conversion is a halachic process and
soldiers cannot be converted wholesale simply because they
serve in the IDF. Any compromise on this issue would not be
accepted by a large portion of the Israeli public, he said,
therefore the IDF Chief Rabbi deserves praise for his
The Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur founded by HaRav
Chaim Kreiswirth zt"l said that since conversion requires
that a candidate completely change his lifestyle to become
Torah observant, it is unlikely that people who are part of a
secular military framework can meet these requirements.
The Vaad spokesman also reiterated the position of the
gedolei haposkim that there is no reason for the IDF
to involve itself in conversions, which are properly the
responsibility of the established beis din system.