Israel in the News May/Jun 2002

Conversion ruling throws Israel into political tizzy
The Israeli High Court of Justice has ruled that converts to Reform or Conservative Judaism inside Israel must be registered as Jews. The ruling overturns Israel’s long-standing policy that only those who convert under Orthodox procedure can be officially designated as Jewish on their identity cards.

However, the ruling does nothing to obligate the Chief Rabbinate to recognize such converts as Jews in areas of marriage and burial. Only immigrants who were converted abroad under Conservative and Reform procedures are officially considered Jewish.

The ruling, nonetheless, has created a furor in the political arena. Arutz-7 reported that Orthodox MKs (members of the Knesset) “vowed to rectify the situation by proposing legislation to retain their exclusivity on conversion,” while secular factions “hailed the decision as a step toward breaking the Orthodox monopoly on many areas of Israeli Jewish life.”

Arutz-7 reported that “Former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu called on rabbis in Israel to accept converts as Jews only if they have undergone an Orthodox conversion according to time-honored Halakhic [Jewish legal] tradition. ‘First the Supreme Court prevents the army from demolishing terrorists’ houses, and now it goes and demolishes the Jewish religious home itself,’ he said.”

According to Arutz-7, “Rabbi Yitzchak Levy called upon the religious parties in the government to set an ultimatum: Either a law is passed that will “right the wrong” and recognize only Halakhically-converted persons as true converts, or else ‘go to new elections in the hope that the national honor will be restored.’”

Opponents of the decision claim the court is undermining the Jewishness of the country by promoting what one detractor called “the fatal process of Jewish assimilation,” the news service said.

Court President, Aharon Barak, explained the decision when he wrote, “Israel is not the state of the ‘Jewish community.’ Israel is the state of the Jewish people. In Judaism, there are many streams operating in Israel and abroad. Each stream acts in accordance with its beliefs. Every Jew in Israel enjoys freedom of religion, conscience, and organization. Our fundamental principles grant each individual the freedom to decide to which stream he belongs.”

Adoptive parents are particularly happy about the ruling because it means non-Jewish children they have adopted, who previously could not be registered as Jewish, will be so registered now.

Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior, who opposes the ruling, said the issue of who is a Jew needs to be decided in the synagogue, not in the courts, Arutz-7 reported. Melchior said the ruling will create two types of converts: those recognized by religious law and those recognized only by the courts. “The word Jewish might be stamped on their identity cards,” he said, “but the Jewish nation will treat them as non-Jews.”

Terrorist’s body wrapped in pigskin
ARUTZ-7—“Residents of Gush Katif decided to take matters into their own hands,” local Rabbi Yosef Al-Nekaveh explained, “and when we were involved in evacuating the bodies of the three murdered Israelis [in a recent terror attack], they placed pig fat and pigskin on the body of the dead terrorist.”

He said a “right-wing kibbutznik” had supplied them with the swinish tissues. Arab MKs [members of the Israeli Knesset] responded with outrage. Ahmed Tibi said, “This is a pig-like act of a man who is not worthy of being a rabbi,” while Abdel Malek Dahamshe added, “The ethical inferiority and lowliness that the settlers have reached is intolerable. This is an act of first-degree desecration of God’s name. . . . It is especially shocking to think that a rabbi did this.”

On the other side of the spectrum, MK Tzvi Hendel said, “If these primitive murderers stuff their brains with nonsense about Paradise and who-knows-how-many virgins waiting only for them, then they certainly believe in the other nonsense that being buried with pigskin blocks their way to Paradise.”

PA violates covenant
of children’s rights
The Internet Jerusalem Post—A government report charges the Palestinian Authority (PA) with violating the International Covenant of Children’s Rights because its textbooks and educators allegedly incite children to commit violent acts against Israelis.

The report presents cases in which it alleges the PA sponsors and condones education and other activities promoting the hatred and murder of Jews. It is filled with pictures of children holding guns and learning to shoot.

“There is no doubt that these phenomena totally contradict the basic value of human rights,” Minister-without-Portfolio Dan Naveh wrote in an introduction to the report. Naveh initially intended to release the report in September but delayed it as the result of the September 11 attack on the Twin Towers in New York, his spokesman said. Naveh released it in mid-March.

The covenant prohibits the inclusion of children under 18 in acts of violence, according the report.

Among the incidents cited in the report is the end-of-the-year ceremony for 1,650 kindergarten students run by Hamas in Gaza in May 2001 that included a skit by children that encouraged the murder of Jews as a religious commandment, the report said.

The report tells of PA-sponsored summer camps where students received military training with assault rifles and revolvers. In the Rafah summer camp, the report states, the youngsters practiced attacking Israeli positions with incendiary bombs. They also practiced marching and shouting, “Long live Palestine and death to Israel.”

It charges that when violence first broke out in September 2000, the Fatah movement used children as a defensive wall. The report contends the PA Ministry of Education encouraged the children to do so and armed activists of the Tanzim and the Fatah fired from behind the children.

In a ceremony at the al-Adawiyya school on June 22, 2001, in Tulkarm, students marched carrying weapons and dressed as suicide bombers, the report said. Posters of suicide bombers can also be found in Palestinian classrooms, the report stated.

Lebanese court sentences woman for singing in Israel
A Lebanese woman who is married to an Israeli Arab has been sentenced in absentia to fifteen years in prison for singing in the Jewish state, the Associated Press has reported.

“An indictment read by Judge Riad Talieh also accused singer Nada Rizk of frequently visiting Israel, giving an interview to Israel Radio on October 24 about her singing career, and of marrying Abdel Basset Ahmed bin Oudeh, an Israeli-Arab who worked for the Mossad. Rizk is believed to be living in Israel,” the AP said.

Her brother, Bishara Rizk, was recently given six months in jail for collaborating with Israel and the South Lebanon Army (SLA), a militia that helped Israel police the security zone before the Israel Defense Forces pulled out in May 2000. The AP also said their father was a senior SLA commander before he and his wife fled to Israel.

Lebanon considers itself at war with Israel and claims it is illegal for its citizens to have dealings or contacts with the Jewish state.

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