In the midst of yet another scandal threatening to end his political career, Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beiteinu faction has decided to propose a radical new law, one that would forbid converts in Israel to request Israeli citizenship based on their being Jewish.
The bill was actually submitted for approval by none other than MK David Rotem, a knitted yarmulke wearing Orthodox Rabbi of Lieberman’s faction. The legislation makes it such that conversion, even if done in Israel itself, and even if done down to the strictest Orthodox Jewish standards, will not be enough to request Israeli citizenship. So even if you put on a Tallit and tefillin, have a nice little ceramic mezuzah on your doorpost, light your Chanukkah menorah and celebrate your child’s Bar Mitzvah, you are still not Jewish enough to be Israeli. However, those who converted outside of Israel and prior to their request of Israeli citizenship, will still be allowed to immigrate.
It’s the brainchild of Yisrael Beiteinu, the Haredi Shas faction, and none other than Israel Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar. It is purportedly designed to improve the status of those considered non Jews according to halakha, or Jewish law, though it is unclear how this will be achieved.
The law is meeting stiff criticism from institutions designed to ease the conversion process. Rabbi Seth Farber of the Itim Institute, which helps potential converts navigate the bureaucracy of the chief Rabbinate, was disturbed by the law. “We are shocked by this law. Jewish tradition has always considered converts fully part of the fate of the Jewish people. It is hard to accept a situation in which a person who underwent state-sponsored conversion in Israel will be considered a second class Jew and will not be entitled to immigrate.”