To give a sense of the amount and range of the laws and political actions taken against the chareidi community, we are giving a short rundown of the most important actions of the past week.
The New Conversion Law
This past Sunday, a ministerial committee approved by a large majority the bill presented by MK Elazar Stern enabling any municipal rabbi or religious council to establish a conversion beis din. It also allows any prospective convert to choose his place of residence. Thus, if a dayan does not approve any candidate's conversion, the latter will be free to try with another, more lenient dayan. This poses a very grave threat of immediate assimilation and a terrible breach in the purity of Jewish genealogy.
According to the new bill, the national conversion setup in Israel which was anchored solely upon government regulations and not legislation, will effectively open wide the gates of conversion by establishing thirty additional conversion courts throughout the country, as is now planned, with the rabbi of each local religious council or municipality empowered to appoint three dayanim to be added to the conversion system to a total of ninety dayanim. Today, there are fifteen heads of conversion courts and thirty conversion dayanim.
The determined trend of destroying all Jewish religious structures, including the Jewish family, through marriages circumventing the Halacha, marches forward: Minister of Justice Livni (Hatnuah) sent out a memorandum of a proposal this past Sunday whereby marriages in Israel will be able to be conducted by civil law for all citizens.
The bill presented by Livni states: "The purpose of the bill is to anchor in law the official status of the relationship between spouses for maintaining joint lives, reflecting their will to live together, carry on family life and a joint household, without having to comply with the law of marriage presently practiced in Israel."
Ministry of Education
The Ministry of Education persists in its aggressive and threatening attempts to intervene in the curricula of studies in the chareidi educational institutions through financial coercion of denying budgets on the one hand while simultaneously encouraging extra funds to those who join the system of "National-Chareidi Educational Structure". The Ministry has invested much time and effort in implementing this, though unsuccessfully so far.
According to a bill presented by Peron, chareidi schools who presently receive 55% - 75% coverage of their budget as compared to the national secular schools which are 100% funded, will only get 35% if they persist in rejecting the Core Curriculum program. Peron has even signed an amendment which denies a budget larger than 35% coverage for those schools not implementing the Core curriculum.
Money for Bayit Yehudi Schools
"Stop the budgetary smuggling which is geared to systematically favor a specific bloc of voters while simultaneously hurting the entire yeshiva world." These were the words of MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni in an urgent plea sent to the government Attorney General, Yehuda Weinstein. In his letter he demanded an immediate halt to the changes in the standards of government support to yeshiva institutions. "The amendments will be additionally harmful to the budgets of yeshivos, which have already been sliced so drastically, without any proportion to the cuts made to all government offices.
"All the adjustments are increasingly injurious to the budget of yeshiva students which have already suffered drastic cuts without any relationship to the overall budgetary cuts in all the government offices. They are discriminatory vis a vis a distribution of the rest of the budget so that students of special institutions affiliated with the Habayit Hayehudi party receive a heftier portion [of the pie] at the expense of the general body of yeshiva students," he added.
His letter to the Legal Advisor states, "According to the bill regarding the monthly support, the sum which the Hesder yeshivos, those bodies which encourage military service, and the girls seminaries (which are voters of Habayit Hayehudi), will be doubled and more. Thus, according to point system, the allocation for regular yeshiva students will drop drastically while the Hesder institutions will receive support from two different government departments, from the Ministry of Education and under "Support for Torah studies and special activities of Torah institutions", besides additional monies from the Defense department under the heading of "Education and Dorming Facilities for Soldiers in Yeshivos." All this translates to more than double parallel funding which is forbidden by the Supreme Court ruling, but which are nevertheless implemented by the Treasury Minister."
In response to a spiteful suit filed by the Reform Judaism legal arm, Justice Miriam Naor ordered the government to explain why it should not cut off all funds to the yeshiva institutions since the law government the draft of yeshiva students expired last August with no replacement. Temporary regulations were issued to permit continued funding and they were extended several times.
This suit can bring no benefit for the Reform movement. It just seeks to deny legitimate support of existing chareidi institutions.
Committee for Referenda
The Knesset Committee finalized the members of the committee that will draw up the Basic Law about Referenda. United Torah Judaism was not given a representative on the committee, even though MKs Rabbi Moshe Gafni and Rabbi Uri Maklev demanded representation, saying that there are issues involved in the law that are very important to UTJ and the party should be heard on the matter.
Against the strong objections of the chareidi MKs, the Knesset approved a new law that raises the basic age of marriage to 18. Current law allows a person of age 17 to get married, and a court may approve marriage at an even younger age. Marriage below the legally permitted age without court approval is a criminal act with a penalty of up to two years in jail.
The new law raises the general age to 18 and still allows the court to permit earlier marriage.
Rabbi Uri Maklev asked that the Rabbinical Courts also be permitted to allow young marriage. He also said that there are significant numbers of families that get married at younger ages and this law infringes on their civil rights.
MK Rabbi Yisroel Eichler said, "This is true hypocrisy. If we had proposed something similar, they would scream at us, `Why do you want to intervene in people's personal affairs?' What chutzpah! If a social workers thinks it should not be allowed in a particular case, then ok. But why make such a general rule for everyone?"