As someone who has been intimately involved with the conversion issue for 10 years, I feel Thursday’s High Court decision is a national outrage - national - not religious or Orthodox.
The country has simply gone crazy. The High Court has lost its mind.
In truth, it must be said that the damage to the Orthodox world and its standing is minimal.
The decision grants recognition to non-Orthodox “jump conversions” for the purposes of the Law of Return-individuals who complete most of their conversion process in Israel, only to take the last step of the process abroad.
By agreeing to this process, the High Court has lent its stamp of approval to millions of people around the world looking for citizenship in a Western country, complete with absorption and health benefits.
No other nation, I believe, would open up its immigration policy like this - with no limits - handing over the keys of conversion to any cult that comes along (serious or otherwise), granting citizenship and all its benefits, forbidding itself from setting any limits at all.
Gates of immigration
The Law of Return grants citizenship rights to the offspring of any Jew, even the children and grandchildren of Jews, with no limits (except in cases of security risks or criminals.)
Despite the fact that I am not happy with the large number of non-Jews who take advantage of the law (approximately 75 percent of new immigrants,) this number is by nature limited, and essentially will come to an end.
Moreover, these non-Jews do not represent a large third-world population looking for a better life in economically successful countries, including Israel.
The Law of Return opens an additional door for unlimited Aliyah, uncontrollable by the government: conversion.
Millions of Afro-Asians yearn to knock on this door, namely the 300,000 foreign workers currently in Israel.
Let us add to that number an additional door: marriage, usually fictitious, to Israelis. This door is largely closed thanks to the High Court, which ratified about a year ago the Interior Ministry demand to determine a five-year waiting period to receive citizenship through marriage (in order to determine the marriage is not fictitious.)
Until now, only the Orthodox conversion granted entitlement to the Law of Return. It is fair to assume the foreign workers are not exactly orthodox-conversion material. In my experience, only a few of them (dozens out of more than 20,000 conversions!) have passed this obstacle and legally joined the Jewish nation.
A cheap health benefits package
In its typically shortsighted decision, the High Court diminished considerably the value of Israeli citizenship, as the health benefits package can be purchased for almost nothing.
A few years back, the High Court ruled that anyone who completed a non-Orthodox conversion abroad would be registered as a Jew in the Interior Ministry’s official population records. In my opinion, this caused a national tragedy from the standpoint of the “Jewish state’s” definition.
The damage was manifested in the omission of the word “Jewish” from our identification cards following pressure by the Orthodox political parties; the registration of citizens’ religion and nationality remained on the Interior Ministry’s population record computers only.
In fact, nothing actually happened because reform converters do not make Aliyah, pure and simple! These types of conversions are typical of Western countries, and Aliya from these countries is almost non-existent (most of those who immigrate to Israel from these countries are religious.)
The non-orthodox carried out the legal battle to gain “equal recognition,” and this is their main concern.
The recent legal innovation relates to foreigners who already reside in Israel; all the non-citizens who live here, legally or illegally, are already celebrating all the way to the non-Orthodox conversion offices.
Even if I would compliment the reform and conservative institutions, who is to say mass-conversion enterprises would not soon ensue?
I hereby warn Israel: The conversion “Machers” of the past are small change compared to the arbitration funds that will circulate in the newly-opened High Court-authorized market, namely the acquisition of Israeli citizenship and a health benefits package through the new infinite conversion outlet.
You have been warned!
Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, the head of the Tzomet Institute in Gush Etzion, established the Chief Rabbinate’s Conversion Administration and serves as a rabbinical conversion judge.