Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan
Rabbi Eli Ben-DahanFlash 90

MKs from the Knesset’s hareidi factions expressed outrage Monday as the Knesset approved, in a first vote, a bill to ease conversion to Judaism by decentralizing the Rabbinate courts involved in the process.

Now, the Deputy Minister for Religious Affairs, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan of the Jewish Home party, has retaliated, accusing the MKs who condemned the bill of pulling a cheap political trick.

In fact, Ben-Dahan said, the same MKs who vociferously attacked the bill Monday had previously given it their approval.

“Yesterday they made all sorts of noise – and didn’t read the bill,” he told Arutz Sheva. For more than two months, he said, MKs discussed the bill with the Chief Rabbis of Israel, who are both affiliated with the hareidi community.

“Any part of the law about which there was any difference of opinion, even the smallest, was taken out,” he related. “Whoever is complaining is unaware of reality.”

“It’s all cheap politics,” he accused. “That’s what’s going on here.”

On Monday, Shas MK Eli Yishai accused MKs of pushing forth the change to the conversion process without discussing it with rabbis, adding, “The Jewish Home has voted for a proposal that will uproot the real Jewish home.”

MK Yitzchak Cohen, also of Shas, weighed in as well. “This is a complete erasure of the state’s Jewish identity,” he said. “It’s chutzpah, they demand that the Palestinians and Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas – ed.] recognize us as a Jewish state, while at the same time systematically destroying any trace of Judaism from the state.”

Ben-Dahan said the Shas party’s accusations were baseless. MKs from Shas and Yahadut Hatorah (UTJ) “were in the Constitution and Law Committee, and saw me taking out one clause after another, over even the smallest doubt,” he said, adding, “They saw it themselves, but they want an excuse for a fight.”

He and Coalition head MK Yariv Levine (Likud) plan to meet with the Chief Rabbis again before submitting the bill for a second and third – and final – vote, Ben-Dahan noted. “If they reject any part of the bill, it won’t move forward,” he stated.

He suggested that hareidi MKs’ critical reaction may have been linked to anger over the Jewish Home party’s involvement in creating a law to mandate hareidi army service.

Pensioner Affairs Minister Uri Orbach (Jewish Home) expressed upset Tuesday over what he termed an “outpouring of hate” from hareidi parties against the Jewish Home. The Jewish Home party has done all it can to ease the proposed transition to “equal burden of service” for the hareidi community, he said, and has received insults in return.