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Monday, March 08, 2021 

Why is it such a big deal that converts to Judaism get citizenship immediately, and not wait 3 years?

I thought about this while reading this Jerusalem Post article, which, while it does have a valid argument to make about Haredi monopolies, doesn't make mention of how Israeli citizenship is worked out:
The ultra-Orthodox monopoly in Israel regularly generates injustice in the lives of the country’s citizens. One example among many is the harm it causes to the freedom of religion and the freedom of choice of Israelis who cannot marry in Israel or are forced to marry in a way that does not reflect their beliefs or their lifestyle. Attempts by ultra-Orthodox leaders to extend this monopoly to conversion affects a smaller number of Israelis, but brings this injustice to an absurd height. The sages already said that “there is no joy like the resolution of doubts,” and thus the Supreme Court’s decree removed one additional stone from the wall of the monopoly and granted justice to converts.
While the Haredi monopoly is wrong - especially when viewed in context of their disparaging attitude towards non-Orthodox sects that isn't even based on whether they're anti-Israel and anti-Zionist (some extreme Haredi clans adhere to the latter ideology, disturbingly enough) - something unconsidered here is that there should be a distinction between race and similarly named religion, for example. Another is that it's entirely legal for non-Jews to apply for citizenship in this country, and wait 3 years to qualify for citizenship. And if they really want to live here, and/or embrace the Judaist religion, why is it such a big deal they have access to immediate citizenship and not wait as they presumably would in a different country?

And so, I realized what kind of a farce is going on here. Nobody's making the case that alleged converts aren't proving they're dedicated to the Judaist religion proper, or that it can be a good idea to show you've got patience more than petulence for obtaining citizenship in the country, instead of relying entirely on the Law of Return. If they did, they'd be able to oppose the Haredi-controlled rabbinate much more skillfully. And following the article's part about the Law of Return, it says:
Despite the clear definition in the law, the ultra-Orthodox monopoly seeks to expand and intensify its control: the Chief Rabbinate’s rabbinical court for conversion uses the conversion process to try to impose an Orthodox lifestyle on converts, secular adoptive parents who convert their children are required to send their children to the Orthodox school system, converts are required to be Sabbath observant and other ridiculous demands that are contrary to democratic principles. Thus, in reality, many converts begin their Jewish lives with a lie to the rabbinical court with the hope, which often fails, that they can uphold the required Orthodox standard. In this way, as in many other ways, the monopoly distances Jews from Judaism.
Yes, the Haredi approach is reprehensible, right down to their vehement refusal to ensure equal rights for Conservative and Reform adherents, which pretty much brought about this whole debacle. No less offensive is how non-Haredi representatives are practically banished from the chief rabbinate now. If the Haredis consider the rabbbinate their sole property, that's wrong. But all that aside, immigrants who aren't of Jewish ethnicity should not have to undergo conversion to the religion just to obtain automatic citizenship that wouldn't be granted in other countries. Simply apply for citizenship without undergoing conversion, and only later, work on conversion. I think more converts can be a great thing. But it shouldn't have to be according to the Law of Return, because then, it actually can make you look bad. Standard application for citizenship and conversion unconnected with the rabbinate is a lot better.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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