JERUSALEM (VINnews) — In a landmark ruling, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled Monday that conversion performed by the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel will be recognized by the state of Israel for the purposes of granting citizenship to the converts in accordance with the Law of Return.
The nine-judge panel ruled that the conversions would be valid for obtaining citizenship ending a 15-year legal battle regarding the issue. The court stressed that its ruling had no religious implications and only dealt with the right to receive citizenship in Israel. Judge Noam Solberg, a religious Jew, dissented on the decision, preferring to delay the implementation until 12 months after the swearing-in of a new government, when it could be reviewed by the legal and executive branches of the government.
However the other justices noted that the Knesset had not acted during the entire 15-year period to resolve the issue and that therefore they needed to step in and resolve the issue. The court however added that the ruling would only apply as long as the Knesset did not pass a law denying the Jewishness of non-orthodox converts.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid welcomed the decision. “Israel must have complete equality of rights for all streams of Judaism – Orthodox, Reform or Conservative. We need to live here together with tolerance and mutual respect,” he said in a statement.
However coalition leader Miki Zohar called the decision “scandalous”, adding that it would be a disaster since “any person around the world will approach a reform rabbi and receive a permit to immigrate within 30 days. It is clear that within a short time, Israel will not be Jewish or democratic. Today more than ever the public must decide who will manage the country, the government or the Supreme Court.”
Shas leader and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri called the court decision “wrong and very unfortunate.”
“It will will cause controversy and a severe rift among the Jewish people,” Deri wrote on Twitter. “I undertake to amend the law so that only conversion according to Halacha will be recognized in the State of Israel.”
Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef commented that reform conversions are “not conversions but rather a forgery.”
Numerous chareidi MKs expressed their strong opposition to the court’s ruling, stressing that it would endanger the Jewish nature of the state of Israel.