Religious IDF soldier
A religious IDF soldier praying beside a tank Photo by Archive
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The Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved Sunday a bill to protect the religious status of Israel Defense Forces soldiers who converted to Judaism through a military court.

Discussion of the bill, which seeks to prevent annulment of such conversion, was raised for debate despite opposition from the ultra-Orthodox parties in the coalition. The bill will apply retroactively to all conversions carried out by the Israel Defense Forces' conversion courts to date.

Two weeks ago, during a stormy committee meeting, the Haredi factions succeeded in postponing discussion of the bill by two months. Its sponsor, MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beitenu ), then accused the Likud and Labor parties of "folding" to Haredi demands to appease Shas. Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, also of Yisrael Beitenu, submitted an urgent appeal against the postponement. That appeal was upheld.

At the committee meeting two weeks ago, another Yisrael Beitenu member, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, launched an attack on Minister without Portfolio Meshulam Nahari, of Shas.

"Don't threaten us," they reportedly told him. "Your threats don't scare us, we can make it without you. This law will contribute a great deal to Zionism, to Judaism and to the state."

Neeman stated at the time that the Torah commands to "love the convert." "As a religious person, I feel compelled to say that what you are doing is blasphemous and is destroying one of the foundations of Judaism in the Land of Israel," he said.

"Recently, doubts have been cast over the validity of [military court] conversions, despite the fact that they are being carried out in accordance with Jewish religious law," Rotem wrote in the introduction to his bill.

"To remove any doubt, and remove the cloud hanging over the heads of previous converts and those studying for conversion today, this bill proposes that it be stated clearly that the chief military rabbi is allowed to set up conversion courts and that the confirmation from such a court will serve as a valid conversion certificate."