Rabbi Dov Halbertal, a prominent haredi journalist now running for the Knesset on the Am Shalem ticket led by former MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem, called for the separation of religion and state in Israel, and condemned the Supreme Court's recent decision requiring Israel to recognize Reform and Conservative conversions performed in Israel.
In an interview at the new Arutz Sheva TV studio in Jeruslam, Halbertal called the Supreme Court's ruling on non-Orthodox conversions "a tragedy" which undermined both Israel's Jewish and democratic character.
“I see this ruling as a tragedy. I see it as a phenomenon against the Jewishness of the state and against the democratic nature of the state.”
Why is it anti-democratic?
“I want to be honest with all of the Conservative and Reform Jews abroad. If they would have come by the millions to Israel and participated in the army, paid taxes, and be in the political game together with us, I would have accepted every conversion, civil marriage, all those kinds of things.”
“But they don’t want to come here. They like the prosperity in America. They’re very affluent, and they don’t want to come here. I want them to come here.”
Israel already recognizes Reform and Conservative conversions performed abroad. Why is this ruling so important?
It is a big step and they don’t deserve it. They aren’t here. A huge majority of Israelis are either Orthodox or close to Orthodoxy. A big majority: 80%, 90%. Why recognize [the Reform and Conservative] them? Let them come to Israel, then we will have to recognize them, to be honest.”
You don’t have a problem with Reform and Conservative Jews, only their conversions. What is the issue exactly?
“My specific problem is that I am against the Reform as a religion. Not the people. I think that most of the people they talk about abroad, the millions of people, they are not really ‘Reform’. They want to have some connection with the community there. They are our brothers.”
“I am against the Reform movement as a religion. I am Orthodox, and we would have a big debate if they would come. But to be honest, they are not here, they are not coming, so I cannot accept any recognition of the Reform [movement].”
Do you back the separation of religion and state in Israel?
“I think that more and more the majority of people in Israel, the non-religious people, are very close to the Western, liberal culture and they don’t want our Orthodox tradition.”
“So I don’t want to impose my values on them because I have some political power.”
Would it still be a Jewish state without basic laws requiring that the weddings be conducted by religious authorities, or banning the sale of leavened bread on Passover?
“Of course, and we’d be a better Jewish state because all of this friction between state and religion is terrible.”
“I don’t need it because morally, I don’t believe I can impose my values on people, even though they are Jews, that don’t want it. I cannot morally impose on them.”
“It is time to separate religion and state in Israel.”