Dan Juster

Tikkun International & Restoration From Zion
"The decision ... was to affirm the Chief Rabbis as ... those who can define people as Jewish or not Jewish"

Many are in an uproar over recent decisions1 of the Israeli government coalition led by Benjamin Netanyahu.

The decision upon which we will focus here, was to affirm the Chief Rabbis as the ultimate determiners of the validity of conversions to Judaism and thus those who can define people as Jewish or not Jewish. This issue is very significant. Even some of the most credible Orthodox Rabbis abroad have had their conversions rejected by the Chief Rabbinate here, including that of Ivanka Trump! To avoid new elections the Prime Minister has caved in to the Ultra Orthodox.

The conversion issue is even larger in Israel, where it has implications for hundreds of thousands of Israelis who are of Jewish descent but not considered officially Jewish. This is a nuisance mainly because there are no civil wedding ceremonies in Israel, and so many citizens are forced to have their legal marriage ceremony performed abroad if they marry "outside of their faith." There are different judicial and legislative maneuverings happening regarding this.

Israel is a state with a state religion, Orthodox Judaism. Orthodox Judaism in Israel has several streams. Some are anti-Zionist. Some reject army service and avoid work so they can just study Talmud. The Ultra Orthodox impose their definition of kosher food and their specific requirements for Shabbat observance on other Israelis who desire greater flexibility in observance.

Oppressive Political Clout

We should also note that the Ultra Orthodox party "Shas" controls the Interior Ministry with jurisdiction over citizenship. They have instituted a policy wherein Jews who believe in Yeshua are prevented from making aliyah (returning to Israel to live here).

In short, the Ultra Orthodox have just 13 seats out of the 120 seats in parliament (the Knesset); a tiny number relative to the disproportionate power they wield.

I think Prime Minister Netanyahu has done many good things. He has kept the economy on track. He has acted in very solid ways to develop Israel's relationships with other nations in trade and mutual support. He has been an articulate spokesman for Israel's security needs, but his submission to the Ultra Orthodox is very troubling. I wonder if I could vote for him again. I think the country is ready for an alternative to the almost tyrannical oppression of the Ultra Orthodox.

1 Another decision concerns the removal of security equipment on the Temple Mount in the face of Muslim rioting and its implications for Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem. This is significant, but we will not address it here. Yet another decision was against forming a new official egalitarian section of the Western Wall so that men and women can pray together as in Reform and Conservative Judaism. (These movements are large in the diaspora, but their numbers are very small in Israel.) Honestly, I really do not care much about the Western Wall decision. Is it really so important that there must be an official mixed prayer area there? I just cannot see it. Women pray at the women's section and men at the men's.

By Daniel Juster
Dan Juster is on the board of Tikkun International and oversees the Tikkun America network of congregations. Donate to Restoration from Zion.
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10:37 03Sep17 Anne Chick -
This article opened my eyes about something I was not aware of ... which obviously is vitally important to bringing the Good News of Yeshua to Jews in Israel. It is really frightening to think of all non-orthodox Jews being excluded from making Aliyah, not to mention the issue of not being formally considered Jews. It is really a surprise to think Netanyahu considered this policy. Just another example of how believers must focus on the truth that God's plan will not be thwarted by any insidious attack of the enemy.

  -- Dr Juster replies: Secular Jews are allowed to come but the Orthodox rabbinates are trying to not recognize conversions from Reform or Conservative. Even some Orthodox conversions are rejected.

15:16 03Sep17 Uta Schmidt -
Being a German out of the land of Reformation, I believe that we need a ReformaZION, because the fruit of Reformation where really not good. And if a tree does not bear good fruit we have to ask for a tree with good fruits. Good fruits come when the root of the tree is holy. Teaching must come out of Zion. We need to learn from the original Messiah and his disciples. We do not need a double made in the West which is a copy which is faked by antisemitism. To correct it, we need not diplomats but truthtellers. We have lost our soul, and need to get her back. This will only work by repentance. Repentance brings joy and life and soul together in unity in our hearts. We can not buy it. Jeshu has paid for it, but he wantes to see true love to him and Israel. So the overcomers have to overcome by his costly blood because satan can not fake the BLOOD. Blood and spirit are undivideable.

16:07 03Sep17 HO -
Most of the issues raised in your footnote are about what degree of respect should we pay to religious beliefs we dont agree with and where are we up to on the journey towards the eschaton ie "in Christ

15:20 04Sep17 Rev. Elijah Peters -
I agree with you that the Prime Minister's submission to the Ultra Orthodox is very troubling. I think the country is ready for an alternative to the almost tyrannical oppression of the Ultra Orthodox.

  -- Dr Juster replies: My view as well

15:23 04Sep17 Ruth -
My two cents worth: There is a reason (God's reason) for this. It's keeping faith and history on the table. Are you Jewish by parentage? or by an individuals faith? If everything is acceptable, then no one will contend for the faith. Remember, God is much bigger than us. He loves the orthodox too. I'll keep praying for you all.

  -- Dr Juster replies: The narrowness of the Ultra Orthodox is much more than that. They have rejected many conversions from famous Orthodox Rabbis in the U.S.

03:34 05Sep17 Witheld -
Thanks for your candid assessment. My family is among those blocked from aliyah, so my frustration with the tyrannical oppression of the Ultra Orthodox at least matches your own. However, I would note that every coalition government in recent history has caved in to Shas, and Netanyahu is one who didn't when it wasn't absolutely necessary. Give him some credit for showing spine in past coalitions. In my opinion, this is not his fault. US meddling busted up his previous gov't, forcing an election and Netanyahu HAD to cave to Shas to cobble together a razor thin and fragile gov't ever since. Were I a citizen, I would still support Netanyahu - despite this grave disappointment.

  -- Dr Juster replies: I don' think he was justified in ending the last coalition he had. He said he did not like people talking against his direction in the cabinet. He still has plenty of that!

03:53 05Sep17 Hannah Weiss -
The problem is not just with Shas (ultra-orthodox) policy. The Jewish Agency, under the leadership of South African oleh Alan Hoffmann, has also tried to prevent MJs from making aliyah. And the ultra-secular Supreme Court under humanist Aharon Barak made the landmark decision all the way back in 1989 that MJs were not to be considered Jews (which BTW negates rabbinic teaching).

Bottom Line: The opposition is not political or even religious. It's spiritual.

  -- Dr Juster replies: Yes, we are aware of that, but it has gotten worse. Now even those who qualify are stonewalled indefinitely. This is expensive. They have put out the word that anyone who is a Christian, even if of legal status for citizenship by the law of descent is to be resisted.

03:57 05Sep17 Luisa Manzano -
Wow, I can see it is really urgent to pray for these important points. Thank you for sharing it with us. The spiritual battle is huge in Israel. May the Lord brings special solutions to those problems. We love you and will stand in prayer with you. YESHUA KING OF ISRAEL!

00:50 06Sep17 Uta Schmidt -
I believe that it is a privilege to be persecuted with Jeshua. This is painful on the way but is eternal life. Israel is the only country with true hope. Unity comes on the way home. People learn that there is only the God of Israel. He is worthy to be praised in all situations we do not understand. But when he comes we will understand. He is our only hope. He loves those who are rejected ... so what are we hoping for?

20:19 06Sep17 Peter Hartgerink -
Thank you for this enlightening commentary. I will pray. But as I begin to consider this, I sense that G-d may be allowing the pressure to increase until something shifts in the spiritual climate as a cry rises up (even among the Orthodox) for greater liberty. Praying that the eyes of many be opened, that the injustice of this situation become evident to all, and that the throne of the ultra orthodox be cast down, that they might be humbled and many of them might find redemption in Yeshua as their political power is broken.

14:10 16Sep17 Gregory Sparks -
It is difficult for those of us in the U.S. and particularly those who are not involved in the Jewish Church to get good real time information about the happenings in Israel. Your news articles help to fill that void to a degree.

Also in this issue of the newsletter:
Asher Intrater: Be Perfect! Are you kidding?
Ygal: Each and Every One
Leora: Not So Hidden Treasure
Marty Shoub: Marty's Story - A Jewish New-Ager From Montreal Finds Messiah
Ariel Blumenthal: The Mystery of Messiah
Asher Intrater: Super-Heroes & the Fruit of Self Control