Regev Responds

The violent verbal attacks erupted immediately after the Court ruled

What they said about the landmark Court ruling

The Supreme Court was kind to Israel in issuing its ruling this week on the matter of the eligibility under the Law of Return for Reform and Conservative Conversions performed in Israel. Opponents of recognizing non-Orthodox converts rushed to condemn the Court and criticize it for not waiting another few weeks or months, after having waited 15 years, until after the next Knesset elections. However, the truth is that the ruling is of great importance in helping the public decide whom to vote for and what direction it wants the State of Israel to grow. It wasn’t the the verdict itself, which is important, but rather the violent [verbal] reactions , not yet physical] that erupted from the very moment it was published and the political demarcations that divide the responding camps.

Israel Supreme Court, source: WikipediaIsrael Supreme Court, source: Wikipedia

Below are instructive examples of responses to the landmark Supreme Court ruling. The demarcation lines are not between right and left. On one side are the ultra-Orthodox parties and their political partners (who are very accustomed to surrendering to their demands while harming world Jewry, civil rights in Israel, gender equality, and freedom of religion). On the other side - right-wing, centrist, and left-wing parties that illustrate their concern over the growing threat to the State of Israel from within, to the rule of law, and to Israel's Partnership with the Diaspora - also sharply presented, each according to their style, alternative visions for how Israel should look as a Jewish and democratic state.

This helped the public understand how much this issue, which directly affects only a small number of people, is actually a core issue at a time when tension are already high, and anger is rising over the ultra-Orthodox sector’s and its leadership’s disregard for the government’s COVID-19 restrictions, against the law. There were many mass weddings, funerals and synagogue gatherings; and boys’ schools were opened in violation of the law, while the rest of Israel’s schools were closed.

Thanks to the Supreme Court ruling, the various parties are forced to clarify their positions on these issues, and the public is listening to their explanations. We can only hope that this will have a constructive effect on the next government. Would that this will help Israel emerge stronger from decades of religious coercion and expand pluralism and equality for the benefit of the people of Israel and the State of Israel!


What they said

Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel Yitzhak Yosef: What the Reform and Conservative call ‘conversion’ is nothing but a forgery of Judaism, which means allowing thousands of gentiles into the Jewish people.

Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi of Israel David Lau: Those who have undergone Reform conversion and its like are not Jewish. No Supreme Court ruling will change that fact. The Supreme Court affirmed the flooding of the State of Israel by immigrants who have nothing to do with Judaism.

Head of Shas Party Minister Aryeh Deri: I commit to amend the law so that only halakhic conversions will be recognized in the State of Israel.

Chair of Shas Party faction in the Knesset, MK Michael Malchieli: The Court does not miss any opportunity to harm the sanctity of the Jewish people… Reform should have no foothold in the State of Israel… in the next Knesset, Shas will anchor in legislation the status of the Chief Rabbinate as the only body authorized to recognize conversions in the State of Israel.

Deputy Minister of the Interior, MK Yoav Ben Tzur (Shas): The State of Israel is first and foremost a Jewish a state and [only] afterwards democratic… the Supreme Court Justices have once again chosen to interfere in a scandalous manner in matters of religion and they seed chaos and destruction of Jewish identity, while harming the Jewish tradition and Jewish people.

Chair of Knesset Law Committee MK Yaakov Asher (UTJ): There are no greater politicians than the Justices of the Supreme Court. The time has come to shrink the activism of the Court in setting the agenda for the State of Israel.

Deputy Minister Uri Maklev (UTJ): The Supreme Court proves once again that it is a political vehicle that rams Judaism again and again with scandalous decisions and harms the Torah, which has been handed to us from generation to generation… the Justices of the Supreme Court erode the lineage of the whole of the Jewish people, and they create severe breaches in the Jewish nation.

MK Yaakov Tessler (UTJ): The Supreme Court takes advantage of the period after the dissolution of the Knesset, when it cannot legislate the Conversion Bill, in order to dig its claws into the sanctity of conversion. Halakhic religious matters cannot be decided in a secular judicial system.

MK Moshe Arbel (Shas): The Supreme Court ruling completely nullifies PM Netanyahu’s great achievement in building a fence in the south of the country that keeps out infiltrators. As of today, every infiltrator from Sudan and Eritrea can bribe a Reform rabbi in Southern Tel Aviv and receive citizenship under the Law of Return.

Deputy Minister of Education Meir Porush (UTJ): The Supreme Court Justices break every record. They have extended their claws into the Holy of Holies of the Jewish people… A law that would limit the powers of the Supreme Court would be a condition for our entry into a future government.

Chair of the Holy Land Faction in the WZO Rabbi Pesach Lerner: The true face of the Reform movements is exposed once again. On the one hand, they speak loftily about strengthening the ties with Diaspora Jewry, but, in effect, they engage in incessant activities to change the Jewish character of the State of Israel.

Shas Faction official statement: The Court decision is a fatal wound in the Jewish character of the State… It harms the unity of the Jewish people and is another example of the severe detachment of the Supreme Court Justices from the majority of the People in Israel, which believes in a Jewish state and wants to preserve Judaism according to the tradition that has been practiced for thousands of years. Shas will initiate and advance a law to nullify this decision and will support legislation of an override clause to prevent the Supreme Court from interfering again in this matter.

MK Naftali Bennett (Head of Yemina Party): The decision as to which conversions the State of Israel will recognize will be made be the democratically elected representatives of the people, and not by jurists. The Nissim Blueprint was, and remains, the right way to settle the question of conversion in Israel. We will ensure the anchoring of conversion procedures in the law.

MK Osnat Mark (Likud): The Supreme Court has already trampled into the ground the democratic Israel. Today it started along the path of trampling Jewish Israel. We will not let it do this.

Religious Zionist party (led by Betzalel Smotrich): This is a dangerous ruling for the future of the State of Israel as a Jewish State. The Supreme Court continues to brutally step on the Jewish identity of the State of Israel and continues operating in an activist and non-democratic manner, as an extension of leftist organizations, in order to turn the State of Israel into the state of all its citizens… In the next government, we must nullify this ruling through legislation that will determine that in Israel only ‘State Conversion’ will be recognized… And an override clause that will block the continued takeover by the Supreme Court of the identity of the State of Israel.

Likud condemned the ruling saying that "the High Court made a decision that endangers the Law of Return, which is a cornerstone of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Only a vote for Likud will ensure a stable right-wing government that will return sovereignty to the people and the Knesset."

MK Yisrael Eichler (UTJ): In recognizing fictitious conversion, the Supreme Court Justices have given a corrupt gift to the election campaign of the Reform and assimilationist parties, Yesh Atid and Liberman. The Justices who are bribed with world travel, lectures, and the purchase of their books by Reform Federations, are now paying back during the election period. With perfect timing, the Supreme Court is giving an election bribe to the anti-Jewish parties in the Knesset so that they receive the votes of the assimilationists and the gentiles who flooding the country using fake conversion certificates and citizenship… Masses of Jewish religious and traditional voters will come on election day and place their ballots against the rule of an illegal dictatorship and block the apostacy crusade to uproot the Jewish faith from the Land of Israel.

Chair of the Knesset Finance Committee MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ): The Supreme Court ruling interferes with the authority of the Knesset. The Justices are worse than the Reform. The Reform don’t have the power to make decisions, and the Justices do have that power. It is necessary to stop this corrupting power, which brings about a destruction of democracy in Israel.

Likud condemned the ruling saying that "the High Court made a decision that endangers the Law of Return, which is a cornerstone of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Only a vote for Likud will ensure a stable right-wing government that will return sovereignty to the people and the Knesset."


On the other hand…

MK Yair Lapid (Head of Yesh Atid): I fully endorse the ruling of the Supreme Court regarding conversion. Israel should completely establish equal rights of all religious Jewish streams, Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative. We all need to live here together through tolerance and mutual respect. A sane government will put an end to a situation whereby Israel is the only democracy in the world where Jews do not have religious freedom.

MK Avigdor Liberman (Head of Yisrael Beiteinu): I congratulate the Supreme Court for its historic decision to recognize Reform and Conservative conversions. Yisrael Beiteinu will continue to fight against religious coercion and safeguard the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish, Zionist, and Liberal state.

MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid): The State of Israel has entrusted the keys to the full recognition of conversion to rabbis and politicians, some of whom do not recognize the legitimacy of its existence at all.

Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, President of the Hartman Institute, praised the court: Throughout history, when it comes to matters of religion and state, the State of Israel has not acted as the national home of the Jewish people, but rather as the private synagogue of Orthodoxy, and even of a particular current within Orthodoxy. This ruling is the fulfillment of the vision of Zionism, and I sincerely hope that it heralds the beginning of a new discourse on religion and state and on the relations between the various tribes within Judaism and within Israeli society.

Rabbi Benny Lau: American Jews have long felt excluded from the State of Israel. The story of the Western Wall is only a sign of this feeling. The story of conversion is the deep story. People who live all their lives in Jewish settings according to their faith and way find themselves at the gates of the State of Israel as gentiles. Beyond the insult and the feeling of alienation, this is an Israeli decision that seeks to paint the color of Israeli Jewry in one and only one shade. When the organizations of the liberal movements began to fight the Israeli establishment by way of human rights in the Supreme Court, religious officials in the country responded… ‘neither I nor you will have’. Instead of understanding that the common life between all the streams is a drug of life for all Judaism, they chose to sharpen knives in a demand for the enactment of a law that leaves the entire conversion system in the hands of the Chief (Haredi) Rabbinate.


The storm over the “Jewish Dog” clip

Immediately following the release of the Supreme Court ruling, UTJ (the Ashkenazic ultra-Orthodox party) used it in a social media campaign clip. It focuses on a claim that Reform Jews celebrate ‘bark mitzvahs’, showing multiple photographs of such celebrations, introducing them as: ‘In the Supreme Court, this is Jewish’, and explaining one of the photographs as ‘His grandmother was a rabbi’. The clip has caused a widespread storm and Facebook consequently removed it as breaching its posting restrictions.

A leader of UTJ, Moshe Gafni, did not apologize for choosing such an assault on Reform Judaism and the Supreme Court, but rather said: If I were to make the ‘Dog Clip’, I would have made it even harsher and tape the Sudanese of Southern Tel Aviv that explain how the Reform are trying to convert them. The truth cannot be hidden. The Reform are celebrating their dogs’ bar mitzvahs, and they are the ones who compare people to dogs. 

One counterreactions came from Yair Lapid who compared its contents to signs posted by anti-Semites in the period leading to the Holocaust, in which dogs and Jews were compared: “My father once told me that there was a big sign on the parliament in Budapest – ‘no entry for Jews and dogs’ – because anti-Semites always compare Jews to dogs.’

A second counterreaction came from former Minister Ze’ev Elkin, a senior member of Gideon Saar’s New Hope party: I think this clip of UTJ’s represents an unprecedented debasement. To compare Reform and Conservative Jews to dogs is classic antisemitic imagery.

Take Action!