In a blustery plenum session last week the Knesset discussed
the recent High Court decision to recognize Reform and
Conservative "conversions" performed outside of Israel.
MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni said that the coalition agreement
between Degel HaTorah and the Likud includes a paragraph that
obligates the government to rectify any alteration to the
status quo on religious issues. "We will demand a legislative
amendment and will insist the government rectifies this," he
Shas Chairman Eli Yishai, who spoke first on the matter, said
that at the beginning of the summer session Shas would table
a proposal to amend the breach resulting from the scandalous
High Court decision.
At the end of the meeting the religious MKs mobilized to
remove from the agenda the motions for order raised by MK
Tomi Lapid (Shinui) and MK Roman Bronfman (Meretz) and only
the motion by Shas for further in-committee discussions was
passed in a majority vote.
In a fiery speech Rabbi Gafni lodged harsh criticism against
the High Court ruling and the High Court President. "One of
the central issues in a sovereign, democratic state is who is
given citizenship in the state," said Rabbi Gafni. "The High
Court has essentially opened the way for anyone in the world
to decide who will be a citizen in the State of Israel.
Anybody can decide who can immigrate to here and receive
immigrant rights. There is no book of laws for Reform and
Conservative [Jews]. An individual can stand up and decide he
is a rabbi and he has decided to convert [non-Jews]. And
through the power vested in him by the High Court he gives
the goy in a given part of the world citizenship in
the State of Israel because he has become a `Jew.' Through a
quickie conversion he becomes a `Jew.'"
Raising the tone of his speech, Rabbi Gafni said, "I know the
High Court President knows he is creating total disorder
here. But he has two [objectives]: one, to transform the
State of Israel into what he considers an ordered state, and
two, to transform the State of Israel into an `enlightened'
country according to his worldview. And he decided to make a
mess of things. But above all that it become an enlightened
"The Book of Law of the Jewish people, of entering the Jewish
people, is one, and whoever speaks of various methods of
conversion and cites Hillel Hagodol, this is a shame and a
disgrace. It would be like someone coming up here and talking
about brain surgery, not knowing anything and without having
studied medicine. Therefore what the High Court did is
unparalleled bedlam that does not exist in any democratic
country in the world."
Shas Chairman Eli Yishai called the High Court decision
wretched, saying it "jeopardizes the stability of the
country, the social and economic security and the security of
the State of Israel. A dangerous decision without equal. I
think this is the most dangerous decision the High Court has
made since the founding of the State," he said, adding that
this is not a secular-religious issue but rather a decision
that the majority of Israel's citizens oppose.
MK Yishai also cited a "shocking" study by Manof which found
80 percent of High Court decisions over the past decade were
anti-religious. He also cited the minority opinion written by
the judges opposed to recognizing Reform and Conservative
conversions. "Is there a third-generation Jew among the
Reform? Eventually all of them assimilate. This will pose an
existential threat to the Jewish people. To enter a normal
cooperative association is much harder than how the Reform
bring Jews into the Jewish people. Is it such a simple matter
to become a part of the Jewish people? The High Court has
permitted anyone . . . to deceive the State of Israel, to lie
to the State of Israel, to buy citizenship. Read what the
minority judges say: with what ease a person will travel to
Cyprus and become a Jew. In every generation Jews gave up
their lives for their Judaism, died sanctifying the Name of
Heaven to preserve their Judaism. And without their act of
sacrifice and without the Torah, would we have remained the
Jewish people today? Why did the Jews of Yemen, Iraq, Libya,
Sudan, Europe remain Jews? Why? Because we have a single
Judaism. There are no streams in Judaism."
MK Roni Brizon (Shinui): "There are streams in Judaism."
MK Yishai: "There are no streams in Judaism. There is one
Judaism and there are streams of turbid water that want to
destroy Judaism. There are streams fighting against
Yishai then discussed the various trials and tribulations the
Jewish people have suffered through the course of history,
including the Spanish Inquisition, the Expulsion, the
Diaspora and the Holocaust. "What kept the Jewish people
going? Why was no nation able to overcome the Jewish people?
Because the Jewish people was united and one. It had a
unified halochoh and a unified conversion. For there is no
way to perform conversions except according to halochoh," he