Daily Israel Report

Report: New Coalition will Make Conversion 'Easier'

Wide-ranging changes are expected in the role Jewish law plays in the life of the state, and many religious Jews are worried
By David Lev
First Publish: 3/10/2013, 6:35 PM

Conversion students (file)
Conversion students (file)
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Within the coalition agreement are numerous sections dealing with the role of the Jewish religion in the definition and life of the state – known as the "status quo" since the early days of the state – and many in the hareidi and religious Zionist community are uncomfortable with some of what is likely to be in the agreement, if the reports are correct.

According to a report in Ma'ariv Sunday, the coalition agreement includes a provision that would allow public transportation on Shabbat in the center of Israel's large cities, a major change in the status quo agreements. Secular groups have long demanded that buses be allowed to run on Shabbat, at least in city centers, to allow secular youth to travel to places of entertainment that are open on Shabbat.

Another provision, according to the report, would require all schools in Israel to teach a core curriculum of math, English, and civics. Schools in the hareidi community have long protested this demand, but according to the report, both Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi agreed to this provision.

However, the most far-reaching change, according to the report, would be in the conversion process. The report said that the process of absorbing converts would be made “easier,” with fewer demands on the converts before being issued an identity card listing their nationality as “Jewish.”

The report quoted several senior sources in the hareidi community as calling the proposed changes to the conversion process “the last straw. If the new government goes through with this they will end up splitting the Jewish people. It depends how far Bayit Yehudi's Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid will take this issue.

“It could be that Lapid does not have a problem with creating two nations – one that is loyal to Jewish law and one that is not – but the hareidi community will have a huge problem with this,” the sources said. “This will be a split from which it will be impossible to recover.” Leading religious Zionist rabbis have warned against going against halakha on this issue as well. However, it is not known what "easier" entails.

In the past, NRP (the religious Zionist party that formed Bayit Yehudi) consulted with well-known mainstream religious Zionist rabbis before making any halakha-related agreements. One notable exception was when the NRP under Effie Eitam's leadership, agreed to eliminate local religious councils, placing their services under a ministry that was not necessarily in religious hands. He received scathing criticism for that move, agreed to in the early hours of dawn.