Attempts to Amend the Law of Return are a Threat to the State of Israel
New immigrants from North America arrive in Israel. (Nefesh B’Nefesh)

Attempts to Amend the Law of Return are a Threat to the State of Israel

Maariv, Israel, September 4

The question of who is considered a Jew has been widely debated at the Knesset throughout the years, yet ludicrous attempts to amend the Law of Return – which gives Jews the right to live in Israel as full citizens – have always been pulled from the Knesset’s agenda. One of the most notable cases discussed in the 1960s was that of Ms. Rita Eitani, who was born to a Christian mother and a Jewish father in Germany. During the war, Eitani’s family was transported to the Warsaw Ghetto, from which it eventually managed to flee. Eitani’s father and brother did not survive the war, but Rita managed to reach Israel in 1947. Recognized as a Jew, she enlisted in the military and started a family. Several years later, however, when she ran for local office, Eitani’s political rivals began questioning her Jewishness. The issue was brought to the attention of the Interior Ministry, which changed her identity card to read “non-Jew.” The issue made its way to the Knesset, where prime minister Menachem Begin himself intervened and reversed the decision, defending Eitani and her rightful place in Israel. While Eitani’s story seems long gone, the question of who is and isn’t a Jew continues to plague our society. This must be stopped. The State of Israel was established as a homeland for the Jewish people, the only people in the world for which the distinction between religion and nationality is blurry. Israel’s Law of Return is one of the most important rules ever passed in the Israeli legislature. It was passed with the unanimous support of all members of parliament, spanning the entire political gamut. Today, seven decades since its passing, we must not let anyone undermine the law. The attempts to hijack Israel and turn it into a zealously religious state that undermines the Jewishness of people born and raised as Jews, and living their entire lives as Jews, must be fought. The Law of Return stands at the very heart of Zionism. Instead of raising the bar and placing hurdles in people’s path, we must ease restrictions on Jewish immigration. We must also make conversion and non-religious marriage available to all. This is the only way to keep our unity and protect the Zionist ideals on which this country was established. – Avigdor Liberman, former minister of defense and current member of parliament (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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