Rabbi Yosef used so-called extra-halakhic reasons for approving the conversions, including that the conversions have already been recognized by the public, the fear of creating a rift among the people of Israel, and the potential weakening of the chief rabbinate if the IDF conversions were revoked.
Rabbi Yosef legitimizes IDF conversions
Committee appointed by Sephardic Chief Rabbi Amar tells Shas leader it cannot approve conversions that have already been performed by army. Yosef drafts halachic ruling confirming conversions
Kobi Nahshoni • Ynet
Shas' spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosed on Friday wrote a halachic ruling legitimizing all conversions performed by the Israel Defense Forces in recent years.
Following a meeting with Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and members of a committed tasked with examining military conversions, Rabbi Yosef decided to approve the controversial conversions.
As reported by Ynet earlier, the committee appointed by Rabbi Amar informed the Shas rabbi that it could not recommend approving the conversions. Yosef, as a supreme halachic authority, decided to take the matter into his own hands.
Rabbi Yosef drafted the ruling himself and asked Rabbi Amar to hand it over to IDF Chief Rabbi Brigadier-General Rafi Peretz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
As the person responsible for Israel's conversion system, Rabbi Amar is expected to use this ruling for an official approval of IDF conversions in the Chief Rabbinate. Together with Shas, he will demand that the prime minister "bury" Yisrael Beiteinu's military conversion bill after coming up with a solution for the crisis himself.
Rabbi Nissim Ben Shimon, head of the rabbis' committee, told Rabbi Yosef during the meeting that although the committee members cannot approve the conversions, he believed the military conversion system is as good as the civilian system.
He added that several changes should be implemented in the conversion courses, in the length of the process and in the panel of judges, in order to allow the Rabbinate to automatically recognize the military conversions from now on. Rabbi Yosef included the recommended changes in Fridays' ruling.
A Shas activist, who visited Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's home during the discussion on the conversions, said "it's clear that the conversions are legitimate. Would it occur to anyone to annul the Judaism of thousands of IDF soldiers just like that? The only person who still has to convert is probably (Foreign Minister and Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman) Avigdor Lieberman."
Ashkenazi rabbis to oppose move
As senior religious authorities, Yosef used in his ruling considerations which are not accepted according to Jewish Law: The fact that the controversial conversions have already been recognized by the wide public, the fear of a rift among the people of Israel, etc.
Such a halachic solution will likely not be accepted by the ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi public. The Lithuanian rabbis are expected to strongly object it and refuse to recognize the military converts as Jewish.
On the other side, the Yisrael Beiteinu party will not settle for a partial and insignificant solution following the rabbi dispute, and will continue advancing the conversion bill despite Shas' objection, worsening the coalition crisis over the issue.
Knesset David Rotem's military conversion bill passed its preliminary reading at the Knesset about a month ago. The proposal states that the Chief Rabbinate's approval for conversions performed by the army would not be required.
Shas claimed that the law would affect the status quo and lead to a decline in the Rabbinate's status, accusing Yisrael Beiteinu of attempting to divide the nation. Rotem said in response that Rabbi Amar, who was abroad at the time, failed to solve the problem.
Rabbi Amar, who is considered the chief authority on conversion issues, appointed a committee to examine IDF conversions upon returning to Israel about a month ago.