According to data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) this week, Israel’s population in 2018 increased by 173,600 which includes 32,600 olim. In a worrisome figure, only 39% of the new immigrants in 2018 are recognized by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel as Jews and 54% are classified as “other”.
Most of the new immigrants were able to come due to the Law of Return, proving their ancestral heritage. In 2017 for example, 52% of the immigrants were recognized as Jews, representing an alarming trend as immigration from N. America is down sharply while immigration is up from countries including Russia and Ukraine, as well as France, but Jewishness among French Olim is far less problematic than those from Russia and Ukraine.
This reality is a major factor leading to more couples getting married out of Israel, in Cyprus for example, preferring to circumvent the Chief Rabbinate, which continues to complicate the situation for future generations. This also opened the door to increasing criticism of the State Rabbinate as it does not recognize most private giyur, leaving many shomer Shabbos people registered as “other” despite leading frum lives. In some cases, including persons converted by the beis din of HaGaon HaRav Nissim Karelitz Shlita for example, they too are not recognized as Jews and they live in Israel under tourist visas, at times illegally, with some opting to leave the country because they cannot obtain citizenship from the Interior Ministry, since the latter views them as goyim.
This situation exists because the chareidi parties realized if the giyur of Rav Karelitz is recognized, the High Court will compel recognition of converts from non-frum organizations, preferring to leave the situation as is.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)