Rabbonim, dayonim and public figures were outraged following
remarks by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni during a cabinet
meeting about easing conversion procedures for hundreds of
thousands of immigrants who received Israeli citizenship
based on the Law of Return. "Any attempt to intervene in
halachic matters is wholly unacceptable," said rabbonim.
"These types of remarks merely brought disaster on the Jewish
people, who for generations kept the halochoh, which is the
sole determinant of the conversion procedure."
During the cabinet meeting Livni said, "The issue of
conversion is critical in reaching a solution to the problem
of hundreds of thousands of immigrants living in Israel based
on the Law of Return. Substantial easing is needed in the
conversion process for these hundreds of thousands of people,
and a solution must be provided.
"The Diaspora is linked to Israel through its feeling of
solidarity with Israel. Within Jewish communities we're
seeing a process of identifying less with Israel, less
understanding and knowledge of history and fewer ties between
Israel and Jewish communities...In Israel we have to
strengthen the understanding of who we are as a Jewish nation
and the meaning of our existence as a Jewish and democratic
state. The Government of Israel must provide a solution by
establishing a constitution, and in my view the fact that
since Israel was founded a constitution has not been forged
is a failure, both a technical failure and a failure in
In response to Livni's remarks rabbonim said that since
conversion is an entirely halachic matter, nobody can dictate
to rabbonim how to act.
A report presented at the cabinet meeting showed there are
currently just under 5.5 million Jews living in Israel,
making it the world's largest Jewish community with 41
percent of the 13.5 million Jews worldwide. During the past
five years the number of Jews in Israel has swollen by
300,000, an increase of 6 percent, while in the Diaspora the
number of Jews has decreased by 100,000 or 1.2 percent.
According to some these figures about worldwide Jewish
population are greatly exaggerated and the true figure is
about half of the commonly cited one.