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Members of Women of the Wall praying at the Western Wall
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Young Jews who immigrated to Israel

Israel is not the property of the ultra-Orthodox

Opinion: With a wave of western aliyah expected, the state must recognize conversions conducted by non-Orthodox rabbinical courts and marriages officiated by non-Orthodox rabbis, and it must legislate for egalitarian prayer at Western Wall

Uri Heitner |
Published: 07.04.20 , 23:39
Israel appears to be on the verge of a wave of immigration by Jews from First World countries in North America, Western Europe and Australia.
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  • Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog believes that up to a quarter of a million Jews will be moving to Israel (making aliyah) in the next three years.
    Young Jews who immigrated to Israel Young Jews who immigrated to Israel
    Young Jews who immigrated to Israel
    (Photo: Nefesh B’Nefesh)
    Israel must make the challenge of absorbing these immigrants a national priority - as was done with earlier waves of immigration.
    As a Zionist nation, especially one that has recently added to its basic law the Nation-State Bill defining Israel as the national homeland of the Jews, we must prepare for the challenges this wave of immigration will pose, among them challenges of a cultural nature.
    Israel must immediately recognize different Jewish streams that much of the Northern American Jewish community ascribes to.
    Israel is not the private property of Jewish Orthodoxy. It belongs to the Jewish nation, all of it and it is incumbent on the current coalition government to institute recognition of that fact.
    There must be recognition of conversions conducted by non-Orthodox rabbinical courts, marriages officiated by non-Orthodox rabbis and it must legislate egalitarian prayer opportunities at the Western Wall.
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    Members of the multi-denominational Women of the Wall organization praying at the Western Wall
    (Photo: EPA)
    Unfortunately, there is no indication that any of those necessary steps would be taken.
    On the contrary, ultra-Orthodoxy has all but completely usurped the country's religious institutions, allowing the rabbinate to hound immigrants from the former Soviet bloc who must prove over and over again that they are in fact Jewish.
    The arrival in the 1990s of more than one million Jews who fled the totalitarian Soviet regime that suppressed any religious expression is no less than miraculous.
    Throughout many years of oppression, some of these Jews married outside the faith, not all pass the stringent scrutiny of the Halachic definition of a Jew, but their arrival was legitimate and based on the Law of Return.
    A true spiritual leadership would have rejoiced in their presence and extended its embrace to include all those who have chosen move to Israel.
    A man wears a face mask to curb the spread of the coronavirus as he reads from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray in Jerusalem's old city A man wears a face mask to curb the spread of the coronavirus as he reads from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray in Jerusalem's old city
    An ultra-Orthodox man wears a face mask as he reads from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall
    (Photo: AP)
    Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, the head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, has initiated legislation to restrict recognition of Jewish conversions to the ultra-Orthodox rabbinical courts.
    This often anti-Zionist denomination places a harsh version of the faith over the national interest. Deri's law would censure not only non-Orthodox converts but also those who facilitated the conversions.
    If passed, the legislation would announce to the world that Conservative, Reform and even Modern Orthodox Jews do not belong in Israel.
    Deri's initiative must be blocked, especially now when more Jews are expressing their intention to immigrate. It must cannot pass, even at the cost of dissolving the coalition.
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