Gafni Discusses Conversion Bill With Rav Elyashiv, Crisis Threatens Coalition


moshe-gafniAn emergency meeting was called last night at the Prime Minister’s Office to ease tensions within the coalition following Yisrael Beiteinu’s submission of a bill that would bar geirim from aliyah under the Law of Return.  The meeting was held in cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser’s office and in attendance were Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and MK David Rotem of Yisrael Beiteinu, Interior Minister Eli Yishai and MK Avraham Michaeli of Shas, and MK Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism.

Sources in United Torah Judaism were threatening to initiate a “severe coalition crisis.” Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv has instructed UTJ to thwart the bill – by which geirus, even if done in Israel, would be insufficient basis for requesting Israeli citizenship.

The bill is to be brought before the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee this morning for debate. It is one of two being presented by Rotem, who is also chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. The other bill, proposing some sort of civil union for Israelis who have no specified religion, is to be presented tomorrow for its second and third reading.

The bills are the result of extended negotiations between Rotem, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Rav Shlomo Amar and representatives of Shas.

Rotem said yesterday in an interview with Haaretz that he was pleased with the agreement with Shas. However, immediately following the interview, it became clear that the bills had brought the coalition to a boiling point.

Shas, joining UTJ, had seemed to backtrack on the signed agreement between Rotem and Rav Amar, who is considered the right hand of Rav Ovadia Yosef.

The bill on conversion would also mean that the procedure could not only take place in the geirus court system headed by Rabbi Chaim Druckman, but that potential geirim could also approach a municipal rov. The law would also mean that only the president of the High Rabbinic Court could annul a geirus.

Another clause in this bill, which angered Orthodox and as well as Reform Jewish leaders, states that a person who had converted in Israel but had not entered the country under the Law of Return, could not automatically receive citizenship.

UTJ was up in arms over clauses in the bill that could greatly weaken the influence of the chareidi community when it comes to conversion.

Rabbonim have annulled conversions when they felt a ger was not following a Torah way of life. According to Rotem’s bill, the rabbonim would lose this important ability.

Sources in UTJ said yesterday that Gafni had approached Rav Elyashiv and Rav Amar over the past few days to “show them the various problems in the bills” regarding geirus, and that Rotem was leading Shas into agreements that were “very harsh.”

Sources in Shas discounted these claims. “It is Avigdor Lieberman that is now making the story explosive, not us. Lieberman is the only one who now has an interest in an ideological crisis,” the sources said.

{Yair Israel/Based on Haaretz}


  1. It is a shame. Shame to all of those who treating Halaha like it would originated already in some kind of knesset and is not law given from G-d. They are not Tanuim to establish law and their adversaries are not more than amhuretzim of lowest kind.
    Honestly I don care about their law. My leaders teach me not to go there at all as long those kinds of people are ruling Eretz HaKoidesh. But they compromise what they consider as Halaha? It is a embarrassment to observe how low these people sank in their service of Hatu Eigel of Zionism.

  2. As a ger, who was asked to have the conversion re-done is Israel to avoid issues such as this, I would just like it if everyone would stop playing politics with my “Jewishness.” I never know if I am going to be welcome in Israel or not. No matter whose rules I play by my status or what I am “entitled” to seems to always be in question. I am just grateful that R. Eisenstein was gracious enough to allow me to go before his Beis Din. I hope that should the time come that my wife and I decide to make aliyah I will be OK. I hope for her I won’t be overly questioned. I understand that Klal Yisroel wants to make sure that we are upholding the beautiful tradition that most, if not all of you, were zoche to be born into. Let me restate that: Even as a ger I am protective of Jewish tradition and want to make sure that conversions of “convenience” aren’t occuring.