Can Childhood Conversion Solve Israel’s “Who Is a Jew” Problems?

Some 400,000 Israelis who consider themselves Jewish are not recognized as such by the country’s chief rabbinate, and are thus unable to marry other Jews legally. Of these, many—often immigrants from the former Soviet Union—are of partial Jewish descent and thus halakhically non-Jews, even if they came to Israel under the state’s law of return. Others are Ethiopian Jews whose status is uncertain, or converts whose conversions are not recognized by the chief rabbinate. Shlomo Brody suggests a halakhic solution:

The problem [from a halakhic perspective] is that many of these Israelis [of ambiguous status] have no interest in meeting the standards of observance required for conversion according to the majority of Orthodox rabbis, which includes [a] sincere commitment to abide by Jewish religious law [halakhah].

To prevent intermarriage in the early 20th century, such prominent rabbis as Ḥayyim Ozer Grodzinsky, David Tzvi Hoffman, and Benzion Uziel ruled it permissible to convert those who generally intend to observe the basic facets of Jewish law, even if their performance will be lackluster in certain areas. Yet most prominent halakhic authorities . . . have argued that Jewish law requires sincere intent to observe Jewish law in toto, which is the position of the current Israeli chief rabbinate.

[This requirement] raises an issue with converting children, who are presumed not to have sufficient maturity to take on such responsibility. The Talmud states that a rabbinic court, serving as their guardian, can accept [this responsibility] on their behalf. Once reaching the age of majority, the child can theoretically repudiate his or her Jewishness, but is presumed to consent unless otherwise stated.

This approach has been challenged [specifically in the case of] children of intermarried couples, since the child would be raised in a non-observant home and thus set up to sin. . . . Yet others . . . allowed such conversions. . . . Rabbi Naḥum Eliezer Rabinovitch, one of the most senior religious Zionist rabbinic jurists, has advocated converting any minors when so requested by their Israeli parents. He asserts that in contrast to the stringent positions taken in the diaspora, leniency on this matter today will prevent the scourge of intermarriage in the state of Israel. Moreover, Jewish Israelis, especially if committed to a basic modicum of religiosity, live by default with kosher food from the supermarkets, a national Jewish calendar, and a blossoming religious culture.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Conversion, Halakhah, Intermarriage, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Chief Rabbinate, Religion & Holidays

Iran’s Four-Decade Strategy to Envelope Israel in Terror

Yesterday, the head of the Shin Bet—Israel’s internal security service—was in Washington meeting with officials from the State Department, CIA, and the White House itself. Among the topics no doubt discussed are rising tensions with Iran and the possibility that the latter, in order to defend its nuclear program, will instruct its network of proxies in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and even Iraq and Yemen to attack the Jewish state. Oved Lobel explores the history of this network, which, he argues, predates Iran’s Islamic Revolution—when Shiite radicals in Lebanon coordinated with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s movement in Iran:

An inextricably linked Iran-Syria-Palestinian axis has actually been in existence since the early 1970s, with Lebanon the geographical fulcrum of the relationship and Damascus serving as the primary operational headquarters. Lebanon, from the 1980s until 2005, was under the direct military control of Syria, which itself slowly transformed from an ally to a client of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The nexus among Damascus, Beirut, and the Palestinian territories should therefore always have been viewed as one front, both geographically and operationally. It’s clear that the multifront-war strategy was already in operation during the first intifada years, from 1987 to 1993.

[An] Iranian-organized conference in 1991, the first of many, . . . established the “Damascus 10”—an alliance of ten Palestinian factions that rejected any peace process with Israel. According to the former Hamas spokesperson and senior official Ibrahim Ghosheh, he spoke to then-Hizballah Secretary-General Abbas al-Musawi at the conference and coordinated Hizballah attacks from Lebanon in support of the intifada. Further important meetings between Hamas and the Iranian regime were held in 1999 and 2000, while the IRGC constantly met with its agents in Damascus to encourage coordinated attacks on Israel.

For some reason, Hizballah’s guerilla war against Israel in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s was, and often still is, viewed as a separate phenomenon from the first intifada, when they were in fact two fronts in the same battle.

Israel opted for a perilous unconditional withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, which Hamas’s Ghosheh asserts was a “direct factor” in precipitating the start of the second intifada later that same year.

Read more at Australia/Israel Review

More about: First intifada, Hizballah, Iran, Palestinian terror, Second Intifada