The High Court on Monday ruled that five foreign nationals who illegally resided in Israel while undergoing an Orthodox conversion outside the framework of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, could not remain in the country and were not eligible to receive Israeli citizenship under the Law the Return.
The decision, reported by Israel Radio, came months after a landmark ruling in March mandating the state to recognize private conversions to Orthodox Judaism outside the auspices of the Rabbinate, which was seen at the time as a major blow to the Rabbinate’s monopoly on Jewish religious services. The government body has come under fire in recent years from private groups who have protested what they say are the institution’s increasingly stringent guidelines for conversions.
Supreme Court President Justice Miriam Naor and two other justices ruled Monday that the foreign nationals — three men and two women — could remain in the country until the end of the Jewish calendar year.
This ruling was consistent with the March ruling, in which petitioner Martina Ragacova was not granted civil recognition because she was illegally residing in Israel at the time of her conversion.
As in Ragacova’s case, these five foreign citizens underwent a private conversion with Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, founder of the Badatz Bnei Brak court.
Israel’s Rabbinate controls Jewish religious matters, such as conversion, marriage and divorce in the country.
Those not recognized as Jewish by the Rabbinate cannot marry in Jewish ceremonies in Israel.
JTA contributed to this report.