The Knesset plenum approved the preliminary version of the Bill for the Correction of Oversight of the Religious Community (conversion) (conversion by a city rabbi or a local council rabbi), 2013 by MK Eliezer Stern (Hatenua) and a group of MKs.
The bill intends to allow a city or local rabbi to establish a conversion court in a local authority or a town, which will have the authority to do conversions without any additional approval.
In the explanation for the bill it is written, ”The question of conversion in Israel has created difficulties in the conversion and absorption of immigrants who are not Jews. This bill grants the authority of conversion to any local Rabbi. During the committee legislative process, the different streams of Judaism should be integrated as regards the conversion process, in the spirit of the Neeman Committee. This bill was written in coordination with Dr. Hadar Lipshitz.”
MK Stern presented the bill to the Plenum. ”Regarding the question as to why we must open this channel, I want to say that the process of conversion is a spiritual one of identity creation and affiliation. There is nothing in the law that hurts the national conversion process; rather, this law strengthens it. The law comes to add possibilities for people who want to choose the way to go about executing this important process. I am not embarrassed to say that there are those who claim that the suggested process is too easy. To my understanding, many of the head Rabbis have agreed to this new process.” MK Yitzhak Vaknin, who was filling the place of the Speaker of the Knesset, said that he knows that the Chief Rabbis have not agreed to the bill.
The Minister for Religious Services, Naftali Bennet, responded to the bill: ”Things that are not wanted will never come to be, but we do want to improve the religious services and to bring different populations together. We will conduct a dialogue and whatever is done unilaterally will be vetoed. At the end we are a Jewish country and the legislation will be in accordance with Jewish law while also being good for Israel. In this instance, this works out well, along with MK Stern and Deputy Religious Minister we will ensure that the bill works in accordance with Jewish law, we will do this through dialogue ensuring that it`s good for Israel and therefore the government will support it. However, to those who think that tomorrow there will be civil marriage, this does not work with Jewish law and it won`t happen.”
MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) opposed the bill: ”I have listened to the principles of Minster Bennett and they don`t fit with the amendment to the law that is being adopted, which is against Jewish Law. Minister Bennett is not a mediator; he is doing things against Jewish Law.” MK Gafni read a letter by Rabbi Dov Lior, according to which, people should not support the marriage registration law and conversion law that are now up for vote. ”Rabbi Dov Lior opposes the bill along with the religious national rabbis. Rabbi Ben Dahan said that this will pass in the preliminary reading and then will not continue. Supporting this law is akin to cancelling conversion. It makes conversion into a joke.”
45 MKs supported the bill and 16 opposed. The bill will be transferred to the House Committee who will decide which committee will prepare the bill for its first reading.