"Yishai reinstates nationality in ID cards"
Interior minister's plan leaves Reform, Conservative converts to Judaism without nationality as ministry doesn't recognize them as Jewish Kobi Nahshoni
Published: 06.21.11, 00:28 / Israel News
Interior Ministry Eli Yishai has signed a regulation that reinstates the nationality label in the identification cards of all citizens who were eligible for the document before 2002.
Yishai decision's calls for the nationality section in ID cards issued to people who converted to Judaism through the reform or conservative movement to remain blank – a measure that defies a High Court of Justice ruling that officially recognizes the converts as Jews.
While the regulation must first be approved by the Justice Ministry and the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, sources close to Yishai said that it is just a formality that can be easily completed.
In 2002, Yishai decided to eliminate the nationality section from ID cards altogether, to avoid carrying out the High Court ruling that called for the nationality of reform and conservative converts to be identified as "Jewish" on their state-issued documents.
Yishai now claims that many citizens, including Holocaust survivors, refuse to renew their worn-out IDs, because their new IDs no longer will reflect their Jewish nationality. He also says that many will avoid exchanging their old cards for the new "smart cards" in two years for the same reason.
Representatives of the reform and conservative movements are furious with the decision, which they say discriminates against anyone who was not issued an ID, or wasn't eligible for one, before 2002 – including people who were born as Jews and roughly 5,000 people who converted in Israel and abroad through movements other than the ultra-Orthodox.
'Haredi minority damages Israel's' reputation'
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, who heads Israel's Reform Judaism movement, sent an urgent letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, claiming that the interior minister is "trampling the basic principles of equality and governmental reasonability in order to violate the recognized rights of converts from the reform, conservative and non-Orthodox movements."
Kariv urged Netanyahu to block the measure, and added that if he doesn't do so, his movement will petition the High Court of Justice over the issue.
"The transparent and unsophisticated use of Holocaust survivors as an excuse for the regulation just exposes how low Minister Yishai is willing to go in his battle against the reform communities," Kariv said.
Yizhar Hess, the CEO of the conservative movement, spoke out against Yishai as well. "It's hard to conceive a more cynical or mean decision," he said. "Instead of welcoming the converts, Minister Yishai sends a message of contempt and humiliation.
"The majority of the Jewish people belong to the reform and conservative movement, but a fundamentalist haredi minority damages Israel's reputation and destroys its image, especially at a time when Israel needs the Jews of the world more than ever," he added.
Attila Somfavi contributed to the report