Fifty-nine Ethiopian immigrant youths on Sunday began a march from the Yifat immigrant absorption center in Arad to Be'er Sheva to demand that they be allowed to appear before rabbinical conversion courts for final conversion exams.
The youths have waited more than a year and a half to be summoned for conversion tests at the rabbinical courts to complete their conversions. Converting would allow the youths to change their status from permanent residents to citizens of Israel.
One of the marchers, Teddy, said "we want to convert and have waited over a year and a half. That's why we decided to march, in spite of the heat, in the hope that someone will hear us and understand how much we want this."
Conditions set by the 'Shebot Am" Jewish identity center for conversion have delayed the final conversion exams for around 150 Ethiopian immigrant youth, all of whom finished their Judaism studies as part of the "Kidma" program.
An official who works in conversions in Israel stated that a few weeks ago authorities at the rabbinical courts decided that before youths would be allowed to appear before the court for their exams, they would have to inform them if they will live in a community where they will be capable of following Jewish Law.…
This is a bizarre story. First of all, the rabbinic courts are under the control of Israel's haredi Sefardic chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar. Rabbi Amar ruled these Falash Mura must be saved and brought to Israel. He also ruled they must convert.
What is the point of making these people wait? Of throwing up roadblocks to their conversions?
Every city in Israel has a rabbi. Kosher food is widely available. Every city has mikvaot. The slums where these Ethiopians live usually have synagogues – if they do not, the Rabbinate can easily open one.
If the goal is to make these people hate Judaism, the rabbis are doing the correct thing. If the goal is to integrate them and to welcome them back to Judaism (i.e., follow Rabbi Amar's ruling) the Rabbinate has, yet again, failed.
Rabbi Amar heads the religious court system. Perhaps he can explain what it is these rabbis are doing in his name.