Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

23 Tammuz 5763 - July 23, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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8,000 IDF Soldiers are not Jewish
by Eliezer Rauchberger

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 remarks.

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.


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