Conversion debate. Who’s the madman who would try to resolve such a difficult problem?
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Photo: Meir Partush
Eitan Haber
Photo: Meir Partush

The wars of the Jews

Op-ed: Conversion dispute in Israel to remain unresolved for many years to come

The question of conversion is like a landmine that awaits any government virtually since Israel’s establishment. Almost all prime ministers in Israel are very cautious about stepping on this landmine, which could prompt a split and schism within the Jewish people. What Israeli PM would like to be remembered in history as the one who ripped apart the Jewish nation?


So let’s start from the bottom line: I believe Israel has never seen a government, and will likely not see one in the near future, that would introduce more than minor changes to the conversion procedure. I would risk predicting that a prime minister who would stir up this hornet’s nest had not yet been born.


You think Bibi Netanyahu would really try to amend our conversion laws? Dear friends, he is not a Shiite suicide bomber.


Since the outset of the Reform Movement (in Germany, in the early 19th Century) and the establishment of the Conservative Movement (in Germany and eastern Europe early in the 20th Century), these movements had been in the sights of Orthodox Jewry, which views them as enemies in every way.


The Reform, who argue that Judaism is not defined by the Halacha, and the Conservative, who wish to preserve the Halacha in a non-Orthodox way, had been facing grave hostility for 200 years now – after all, Jews always need someone else to hate.


Balance of terror

Many Orthodox Jews do not view the Reform and Conservative as their Jewish brethren. What’s worse, in many cases the Orthodox would prefer full-blown gentiles over people walk to synagogue on Shabbat. Did I say walk? Drive! What abomination!


The war pitting the Orthodox against the Reform and Conservative has many faces. This war continues, with lulls, ever since the latter two streams had been established. However, the State of Israel’s creation channeled these endless battles mostly to the conversion issue, which had recently again been placed on the agenda.


I believe that a proposal that would modify the conversion issue has no chance of being approved, and that it would merely constitute another sad chapter in the “wars of the Jews.” Why? Because what we have here is a balance of terror: The Reform and Conservative constitute the majority of America’s Jewish community. We need these Jews like the air we breathe. On the other end we have Israel’s religious parties, who hold our government in the most sensitive spot.


Any Israeli prime minister, and certainly Bibi Netanyahu (who was once married to an American convert,) knows that should he comply with Orthodox demands in Israel on the conversion issue, he would lose millions of US Jews. Who’s the madman who would try to resolve such a difficult problem?


Hence, this problem will apparently not be resolved during our lifetime.



פרסום ראשון: 08.13.10, 14:41
 new comment
This will delete your current comment