The Ministerial Committee on Legislation ratified on Sunday a proposal aimed at "opening the gates of Judaism," according to the bill's initiators, and making the process of converting to Judaism easier, by increasing the number of rabbis authorized to approve conversion and the number of religious courts.
The bill is likely to raise opposition among Habayit Hayehudi
party, which is authorized to veto proposals pertaining to issues of religion.
The bill proposed that 30 additional conversion panels be established, each consisting of three judges. The move is expected to add some 90 religious judges authorized to approve conversion to the 30 operating now.
In addition, the bill proposes that each citizen will be able to choose the location where the process is to take place.
According to MK Elazar Stern, "The bill is based on an initiative of MK David Rotem
from the previous Knesset. There is still a long way to go until the bill is approved, and we hope to make it as quick as possible."
Stern added that the bill "has a strategic contribution to the State of Israel
as Jewish and democratic and is meant primarily to prevent religious assimilation in the State of Israel."
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni
, who supported the bill, added: "Today we have taken an important step on the way to returning Judaism to its natural state – an accessible, open and embracing religion. This law will open the gates of Judaism by expanding the areas in which people can convert to Judaism.
"Many olim who have immigrated to Israel via the Law of Return are not Jewish
according to Halacha, but come from Jewish families and – more importantly – want to be a part of the Jewish people. Instead of embracing them, we force them to endure hardship and face many barriers. Conversion in Israel has become difficult. The unfortunate result is alienating people from Judaism," Livni said.
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