Israeli Jews Agree to Continue Negotiations Over Conversion
Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jews have agreed to spend another three months negotiating the future of Israel's controversial conversion bill, Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports. The bill, along with proposed legislation concerning representation on local religious councils, would codify Orthodox control of religious legislation in Israel. The bill was denounced by Conservative and Reform Jews when it was introduced earlier this year; the greatest opposition came from the United States, where non-Orthodox groups make up the majority of the Jewish community.
A committee headed by Israeli Finance Minister Ya'acov Ne'eman was formed last summer to try to find a solution to the impasse between Orthodox groups that wanted to pass the legislation and non-Orthodox groups that threatened to sue the government. Both sides agreed to take no action during the negotiation period, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had proposed that the "cease-fire" period be extended until the end of January. Conservative and Reform groups initially rejected the proposal, but changed their mind on October 28. "Time permitting, I have every reason to believe that this committee can bring about an historic shalom bayit [peace in the house] which would be a blessing to the Jewish people," said Minister Ne'eman.
© 1997 Heather Elizabeth