After years of determined effort the Orthodox bloc in the coalition government of Israel succeeded last month in securing the passage of an anti-conversion bill in the Knesset (Parliament).

Under the new law, six months’ imprisonment can be imposed for direct attempts to convert Jewish minors. Such conversion is prohibited unless consent in writing is provided by both parents, by a court, or by the surviving parent or guardian. If the child is over the age of ten, his own consent is required as well.

Some time ago the Knesset rejected a bill substantially intended to prohibit missionary activity. The defeated bill, proposed by Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz of the National Religious Party (Orthodox), stipulated:

No person shall accept into an educational institution in which religious instruction or religious worship takes place, a minor belonging to another religion, except with the written consent of the head of the religion to which the minor belongs.

The new law is considerably less than the Orthodox rabbis had hoped for. They wanted included in the law a provision requiring permission of the rabbi, as well as the consent of the parents, before a minor could convert.

As it now stands, the law not only prohibits Jewish minors from converting to another religion but also prohibits minor children of mixed marriages from converting to Judaism without both parents’ consent.

The law actually provides little that has not been observed since the days of the British mandate. For nearly fifty years no minor in the Holy Land under eighteen years of age has been allowed to convert if his parents object.

The present bill received government support for two reasons. First, although it is short of the law that the Orthodox wanted, it will ...

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