Opinion: Religious parties along with members of Likud seek to amend the law to exclude grandchildren of Jews from access to Israeli citizenship, threatening relations with Jews around the world and leading the country toward a theocracy

One week after the results of Israel’s elections were known, the Law of Return was already in the crosshairs of the coalition negotiations.

At first, they spoke out against LGBTQ rights, then women and the legal system, and now it is the turn of the Jewish people.

מטה ש"ס
Shas leader Aryeh Deri on election campaign (Photo: Shalev Sharon)


Itamar Ben-Gvir-led Religious Zionists Party and the ultra-Orthodox factions during coalition negotiations with Benjamin Netanyahu have apparently been demanding a change to the law that would end the ability of a grandchildren of Jews to make Aliyah.

In a tweet last week, Likud lawmaker Shlomo Karhi said that has been the goal for the past year, and those who are surprised by the proposal have not been listening to the messages coming out of the campaign trail before November 1.

“You were not listening to us,” he said in his post. “The people have spoken. They want a Jewish and democratic state and they will have one.
Your grandchildren will thank us for it,” he said.

In other words: You are not welcome here and if it were up to us, you would not be here in the first place.

הפריימריז לליכוד בתל אביב
Shlomo Karhi (Photo: Motti Kimchi)


A someone who made Aliyah 22 years ago, I wonder what would have happened to the tens of thousands, who fled the horrors of the war in Ukraine, including my own parents, had Karhi been the one to decide who is allowed to immigrate and who is not.

All of this, before we have begun to speak of antisemitism that does not differentiate between those born to a Jewish mother and those who were not. In my experience, being targeted by antisemitism is a difficult experience endured even before the process of confirming Judaism and getting approved by the Rabbinate.

The Law of Return is not only about Aliyah and is worth becoming familiar with. It was passed in 1950 and was the first, and until recently the only, manifestation of Israel as a homeland for Jews. It states that a neutralized Israeli is one who was born to a Jewish mother or had converted. In 1970, the law was amended to include people whose father or grandfather were Jewish.

The law maintained the delicate balance between the religious-Orthodoxy’s definition of who is a Jew, and that of national definition of a Jew.

For example, the law determines that a person who converted to Judaism is entitled to immigrate, but does not differentiate between Orthodox, Conservative or Reform conversions. By including all streams of Judaism in the law, a rift between Israel and the non-Orthodox communities in the diaspora was averted.

In March 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that anyone who had converted in a non-Orthodox conversion in Israel is eligible for Israeli citizenship. This ruling demonstrated a humane intent to encourage members of Jewish families to make Aliyah.

Leave the Law of Return in peace. Those who hope to turn Israel into a Halachic theocracy, which pushes away large numbers of Jews around the world, is harming any law which reflects the values of Zionism, humanism and the shared destiny of the Jewish People in the broadest sense of the word.

Jews arriving from former Soviet republics in the early 1990s
Jews arriving from former Soviet countries in the early 1990s (Photo: David Rubinger)


The proposed change to the law, which opened the doors to so many Jews and their families arriving from the former Soviet countries, is an assault by religious coercion on the country’s national character, and is a slap in the face of hundreds of thousands of Israelis and Jewish communities around the world.

The extreme political parties are trying to make the Rabbinate the gateway into the country, and the Law of Return is perhaps the last defense against Israel becoming a conservative theocracy.

The proposed change would first target new immigrants, but will not stop there. We may quickly see rabbis running not just our immigration policies, but the country at large – and this, we cannot allow.

As reported by Ynetnews