Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Mounts Pressure to Disregard Decision on Who is a Jew
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Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Mounts Pressure to Disregard Decision on Who is a Jew

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Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, apparently confident that it has the Government’s backing in its battle with the Supreme Court of the issue of who is entitled to Jewish nationality, issued an order today which, in effect, called for defiance of the high court. The Rabbinical Council issued an “Isur Torah,” a virtual religious ban against anyone signing documents certifying that someone is Jewish when he is not, under Jewish religious law.

The ban was intended to pressure the registration clerk in Haifa to disregard the Supreme Court’s ruling and refuse to register the children of Lt, Commander Benjamin Shalit as Jewish by nationality. The rabbinate contends that the Israeli-born youngsters are not entitled to Jewish nationality because their mother is not Jewish and therefore they are not Jews according to religious law. Commander Shalit, a Naval officer, sued the Government over the issue and was upheld by a majority of the Supreme Court last week. The ruling has aroused a storm in Orthodox circles here and abroad and demands for legislation that would nullify it.


The Orthodox National Religious Party has threatened to walk out of the coalition government unless such legislation is immediately forthcoming. Premier Golda Meir, Deputy Premier Yigal Allon and a majority of the Labor Alignment are apparently ready to give in to the Orthodox demands in order to avert a crisis. But Mapam, the Alignment’s junior partner, balked today. It suggested that the category of nationality be eliminated altogether from the population registry forms and the identity cards that all Israelis must carry. Mrs. Meir is reportedly dead set against the idea which has been proposed before and rejected by the Government.

The Chief Rabbinate’s ban came too late in the day to elicit comment from any quarters. But the Supreme Court rendered another decision today likely to arouse Orthodox ire. It refused to order the registration as Jewish of the children of a Tel Aviv lawyer, J. Ben Menashe, against the will of their father. The Government registration office demanded that the children be registered as Jews. But Mr. Ben Menashe said he is a non-believer and does not want them so registered. The high court instructed the clerk to leave blank their religious and national affiliation which, according to the Orthodox view, is one and the same thing. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan side-stepped the issue of “who is a Jew” when he was asked by newsmen today whether he would accept the children of Lt. Commander Shalit in the Army. Gen. Dayan replied, “I would welcome them to the Army.”

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