Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan gave an exclusive interview to Arutz Sheva while participating in a conference of European rabbis in Budapest, Hungary. There, Ben-Dahan called on rabbis to save their communities by leaving Europe and coming to Israel.
The annual conference of the Rabbinical Center of Europe (RCE), which included a memorial ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the murder of the Hungarian Jews by the Nazis, was attended by hundreds of rabbis from throughout Europe this week.
During the conference, which focused on assimilation, new figures were announced revealing that over 80% of European Jews intermarry with non-Jews.
"Therefore I told them there is no choice, immigrate with (the remaining Jews) to Israel. i don't know any other solution to prevent intermarriage," stated Ben-Dahan, who noted that he told the European rabbis that in Israel "there is no intermarriage."
While acknowledging that there are various cases, such as the considerable number of Jewish women ensnared in relations with Arab men who often abuse them, Ben-Dahan emphasized he was talking about the state as a whole. Israel does not recognize civil marriages in the country, only religious marriages between Jews or proponents of other faiths.
"Intermarriage in Israel less than a thousandth"
"People hear some stories from Yad L'achim and think that it's thousands (intermarrying)," remarked Ben-Dahan. "I told them each year in Israel over 40,000 couples marry. How many per year go to the Arabs, four? Five? Thirty? It's less than a thousandth."
Speaking about the solution to intermarriage in disapora communities, Ben-Dahan stressed "they need to know that the natural place of every Jew in every place in the world is in the land of Israel, in the state of Israel."
"In the meantime, unfortunately, Jews are not immigrating to Israel, or very few immigrate," acknowledged Ben-Dahan. While remaining in in the disapora, "the role of the rabbis here (in europe) is to provide for (Jews) education, Jewish culture, the Jewish life cycle throughout the year."
"Enlistment Law isn't as big of a deal as they're making it"
In presenting the solution of aliyah (immigration to Israel), Ben-Dahan noted the European rabbis "want to know what exactly is happening in Israel, what's happening with the Enlistment Law, the Conversion Law."
The Enlistment Law on drafting hareidi men to the army, which passed two weeks ago, has been highly controversial, with many hareidi leaders wanting their young men to remain in yeshivas to study Torah instead of joining the IDF. The Conversion Bill is currently being discussed, and has been criticized for recognizing the conversions invalid according to Jewish law.
However, Ben-Dahan reported the European rabbis are not concerned about the Conversion Bill. "I leave here encouraged, they trust me, they have confidence," remarked the minister. "They trust that we will make efforts to bring the ship to a good place."
As for the Enlistment Law, Ben-Dahan said "it's not like the uproar being made of it, there's no need for panic," adding that there's a tendency sometimes to "embellish the facts."