Lou Sandler
Lou Sandler

High Court Gives an Historic Hard-Earned Victory

High Court recognizes Reform, Conservative conversions carried out in Israel

‘The High Court of Justice ruled Monday that people who convert to Judaism in Israel through the Reform and Conservative movements must be recognized as Jews for the purpose of the Law of Return, and are thus entitled to Israeli citizenship’

This is an historic and major victory for Israel. The Israeli Right – driven primarily by Haredi communities – have rapidly grown in population while gaining hugely disproportionate political power. This has meant the increasing imposition of halachic law on Israel to its distinct detriment. And Netanyahu’s never ending pandering to Haredi groups is about the only reason he’s still sitting in the PM’s office despite losing past elections.

The High Court’s ruling directly denies and will end the stranglehold Rabbinic courts have long had in Israel and on Jewish life to include who can be identified as Jewish. It is a set of powers they have frequency abused and by which they have too often caused great pain. Despite the ‘horror’ voiced by many in these groups with regards to the High Court’s decision, Israel can only grow and become stronger as a result. The reality is that it is these same Haredi communities who have created the most significant compromises to Israel’s current security and economy and future stability.

The article reported that Shas immediately claimed how the ruling shows the court’s ‘disconnect from a majority of Israelis,’ who, they claim, “…want to maintain the Jewish state and preserve Judaism according to traditions that go back thousands of years.” But Shas has once again confused it’s own very narrow agenda with that of Israel’s Founders, Israel and the true large majority of Israel who live, and want to maintain, a secular lifestyle.

It’s true that a majority of Israelis, and a majority of us in the Diaspora, very strongly want to ‘maintain the Jewish state and preserve Judaism.’ But what the same majority of us do not want is an Israel which continues driven by halachic law and controlled by all too powerful and unelected Rabbinic Courts who make decisions into which very few Israelis have any input

What a majority of us do want is an Israel free of halachic law. What a majority of want on behalf of Israel’s future are Haredi communities who consider themselves to be part of the broader Israeli community by way of having schools which teach the full public school curriculum to their children who then grow up to hold jobs, pay taxes and do expected service in the military.

Israel’s Haredi community has become a nation within a nation who then insist, with escalating violence against Israel to include the Israeli military and police, that Israel can only be a reflection of themselves. Interestingly, this rather similar approach and misguided belief is not unlike so many of the violent Christian Nationalists and Supremacists in the United States which also, like Israel, was founded to be distinctively socially and politically secular.

We’ll have to wait and see if Shas and the hard Right leading Knesset now tries to write legislation that would, in essence, hand this falsely held power back to Rabbinic courts. It is certainly possible and an attempt very likely. But trying to push such clearly biased and discriminatory legislation could also risk being a final straw for the large majority of secular Israelis who could then say ‘enough.’

Israel’s Founders never intended to create a ‘religious Jewish State’ but a democratic Jewish State framed by Jewish principles and guided by an explicitly secular framework. In doing so, however, they also felt it necessary at the time to make almost Faustian like deals with the relatively small numbers in earlier Israel’s then ultra-orthodox community. It is these earlier deals which have since spiraled in ways I am certain Israel’s Founders never intended, foresaw or would support

About the Author
I was born in Baltimore, MD and have since had a wide range of experiences including a year plus in Israel. I've been a progressive organizer, writer/media spokesperson, coordinator and freelance. I am a PhD level Clinical Behavioral Analyst specializing in severe behavioral need in children (and adults) and their families. I write through no ‘agenda or special interest’ other than being a passionate supporter of Israel and Israel's future.
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