Rabbi Chaim Drukman, head of the Israeli Conversions Court had been relieved of his duties. Drukman received a letter from the human resources department at the Prime Minister's Office Sunday, informing him that his tenure will come to an end by the end of June.
The Prime Minister's Office confirmed Thursday that Drukman's term in the Conversions Court will be coming to its end, citing the decision was subject to Civil Service Bureau ordinances.
"Rabbi Drukman's is nearing his 75th year and according to Civil Service regulations we are unable to extend his contract," said the PM's Office. "Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has nothing but the greatest respect for Rabbi Drukman and is deeply appreciative of his contribution to the State."
Rabbi Chaim Drukman was called upon by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to form and modernize the Israeli Conversion Court back in 2004 in order to promote the proper conversion of some 300,000 non-Jews which came to Israel around that time.
The ultra-Orthodox community had fierce objections to Drukman's heading of the court, but those familiar with the decision to oust him fault Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel and Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander for "dealing Drukman a massive blow."
A crushing blow
The decision was said to shock the conversions establishment. A source familiar with the decision wondered how "someone who was called in by the prime minister to perform a sacred duty is now dismissed by a government clerk… This move plays right into the hands of the hostile orthodox factors within the conversions establishment.
"This is a fatal blow to the establishment and might lead to its crumbling all together." The Prime Minister's Office, added the source, "is crushing the system while pretending to modernize it."
Rabbi Drukman was in the center of a religious storm recently, when the Supreme Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem ruled all the conversions both he and Rabbi Chaim Avior presided over since 1999 must be declared null and void.
The decree sparked a major controversy and is currently debated in the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.
Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel Shlomo Amar's office told Ynet that Rabbi Amar "Is unlikely to support the move." Rabbi Amar is currently out of the country and is expected to deal with the matter upon his return.
"The Prime Minister's Office has stabbed the Religious Zionist establishment in the heart," National Religious Party Chairman MK Zevulun Orlev told Ynet.
"Ousting Drukman will cause the complete disintegration of the friendly conversion establishment. This is a pyrrhic victory for the strict ultra-Orthodox approach to conversion, which locks the door for all would-be proselytes."
Rabbi Drukman told Ynet the decision to remove him from duty was malicious: "I was 75 when they renewed my contract. Doing this now, right after the Rabbinical Court's ruling, is foolish and malicious. Those who want me out of the way don't care about conversations.
"No one talked to me, I just the letter… Is seems like this has been planned for months. This was a 'targeted killing'. I'm anguished – how can anyone annul a conversion 15 years after it was declared?"
MK Menahem Ben-Sasson (Kadima), who heads the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, called on the Prime Minister's Office to retract the dismissal.
Knesset member and rabbi Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad) called for "an immediate government intervention," saying that since the entire conversion establishment has been put as risk, the "additional crisis looming with the ousting of Rabbi Drukman must be averted."