In the past few weeks, several Knesset Members have voiced concerns that given current developments, the future of Israel is decidedly un-Jewish. One rebel rabbi has a different vision and solution for ensuring the Jewish future of Israel.
Law of Return
The High Court ruled on Sunday to extend the Law of Return. Currently, the law grants citizenship to any person whose father or grandfather is Jewish. This includes people who are not classified as Jewish by Halacha (Torah law). The new ruling extends this to include widows/widowers of those whose father or grandfather was Jewish.
The Law of Return passed in 1950 gives Jews the right to come and live in Israel and to gain Israeli citizenship.In 1970, the right of entry and settlement was extended to people with one Jewish grandparent and a person who is married to a Jew, whether or not he or she is considered Jewish under Orthodox interpretations of Halakha.
It is important to note that hundreds of thousands of people have made Aliyah to Israel as family members of Jews, despite not being considered Jewish by the law of return, but were eligible for Aliyah as a family member of a Jew.
MK Shlomo Karhi (Likud) attacked the ruling:
“It will be a nation entirely of non-Jews,” Karhi said. “The High Court is eroding the foundations of the Jewish state, and through ‘intentional interpretation’ distorts the law so that it will serve the wishes of its progressive judges.”
“If we do not put an end to this, the High Court will put an end to the Jewish state. I will lead the Knesset to make a change in the law, to build a wall in such a way that even the activists and anti-Zionist High Court will not be able to break through.”
MK Itamar Ben Gvir (Otzma Yehudit) also expressed displeasure with the ruling:
“The High Court today ruled another precedent-setting and dangerous ruling that will destroy the Law of Return,” Ben Gvir said. “Violations in the law may in the future cause the Jewish people to become a minority in their country. In the next session, I will propose to amend the High Court ruling and include explicit sections in the law that will prevent the continuation on this slippery slope. “
MK Ben Gvir added: “Once again, the High Court proves why the time has come to reform the judicial system and appoint judges with a Jewish-Zionist agenda.”
The High Court amendment to the immigration law was not the only source of concern for the future of the Jewish State. On Sunday, Shas chairman, MK Aryeh Deri criticized the coalition government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
“On a personal level, I have not had such peace of mind for a long time,” Deri said in an interview on Kol Barama radio. Deri heads the Haredi Sephardi religious political party which is not part of the coalition. “If we were in the government now, how many people would attack us for traveling to Uman [to the gravesite of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov] and praying in synagogues. On the other hand, I can’t sleep at night because the trend is towards harming the Jewish character of the nation of Israel, how they try to change the tradition and harm the kosher food, conversion and all other religious issues.”
“The current trend of the government is only against Judaism and the ultra-Orthodox. All the proposals of the heads of the coalition aim to harm the ultra-Orthodox and the keepers of tradition.”
“There has been nothing like this in the history of the country that a prime minister with the most sympathetic media, two full months in office and he barely got six seats in the elections. God willing, this government will fall and a good government will be formed.”
Education: Less Bible?
Yet another concern for the Jewish future of Israel was raised by a new initiative coming from Yifat Shasha-Biton, the Minister of Education. Two days before Israeli schools opened their doors to the students, Biton suggested that “it is possible to study fewer chapters in the Bible and give more space to social issues.”
Israeli high school students take matriculation exams called the Bagrut as a prerequisite for higher education which assesses knowledge on subjects studied in high school. The exams include academic subjects such as English, mathematics, civics, history, and literature. Students in state-run schools are also required to take matriculation exams in the Bible.
Rabbi Amsalem: Less politicians, more conversion
Rabbi Chaim Amsalem, a former MK for Shas, does not agree with the approach of his former party or his fellow Haredim.
“If Israel is not a Jewish state in the future, it will be the fault of the religious parties,” Rabbi Amsalem told Israel365 News. “The religious parties are interfering with the conversion process where they have no knowledge or right to be.”
Rabbi Amsalem is a respected Halachic authority and has written several books on Jewish law, most notably a book titled Zera Yisrael, which is an exhaustive summary of the sources connected to conversion and shows his mastery of the topic. He founded Ahavat HaGer (love the stranger), an organization that aims to ensure that converts can go through the conversion process with a minimum of fuss. He is an advocate for significant leniency when dealing with the case of a halachically non-Jewish child with a Jewish parent. He was even more lenient in the case of an IDF soldier, with Amsalem considering the army service itself to be the ‘acceptance of the mitzvot’, a key component in the conversion process. He was savaged for this stance in the Hareidi press.
Rabbi Amsalem has called for an “independent conversion court system that will be run according to halacha, not politics”.
“The Jewish future of Israel is in the demographics, in aliyah,” Rabbi Amsalem said. “We need to convert anyone who comes to Israel and wants to convert. We need to ignore the religious politicians who should not be involved in this in the first place.”