Tensions Persist Over Israel’s Conversion Bill

The Knesset was scheduled to vote this month on legislation that would revamp national rules regarding Jewish conversion. That vote has now been put off until the start of its summer session in May. As David Isaac reports, “the delayed vote represents the latest in a series of efforts to resolve religious disputes through political means,” particularly regarding standards of kosher certification, prayer at the Western Wall, and conversion.

The “conversion system” bill, submitted to the Knesset plenum on March 7 for a first reading that didn’t happen, calls for allowing city rabbis to establish their own conversion courts. . . . Currently, there are about ten official conversion courts, all under the guidance of the chief rabbinate, which is under the sway of the ultra-Orthodox. There are also some private, independent courts.

“What we are trying to achieve is the decentralization of the power of the chief rabbinate,” said Tani Frank, director of the Center for Judaism and State Policy at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, which was involved in drafting the conversion bill. . . . The hope is that by expanding the number of conversion courts, those who want to become Jewish will have a better chance of finding more lenient rabbis, according to Frank.

Frank goes on to state that, if the bill were passed, it would mark

“the first time that the government of Israel [made] a law that deals with conversion. It was never done before, and although it doesn’t necessarily directly deal with the conversion of foreigners—of people outside of Israel—it does have an impact on the general question of who is a Jew and who can convert.”

Read more at JNS

More about: Conversion, Israeli Chief Rabbinate, Judaism in Israel


As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas