Twelve percent of the 5,000 non-Jewish soldiers currently
serving in the IDF undergo an accelerated "conversion"
process every year according to recently publicized figures.
IDF officials estimate that rate will go up to 20 percent in
the next few years.
The figures appeared in a report published by
Ha'aretz, which quoted IDF officials saying, "The
secret of success lies in the amiable way converts are
treated and the approach of not requiring the converts'
family members to change their way of life and keep mitzvos,
unlike the accepted practice in the government conversion
The figure behind the IDF's mass conversion initiative is
Personnel Division Commander Gen. Elazar Stern, who claims
the army has an interest in converting non-Jews. "On the
personal level, if there are soldiers who want to be Jews I
have to allow them to do so. On the national level conversion
is a social problem and the IDF can and must assist in
According to Gen. Stern, although previously the Chief of
Staff opposed the mass conversion program "the attitude
[toward the conversion program] changed following a visit to
the conversion preparation course, which moved the generals
to the point of tears," said Gen. Stern. He said IDF Chief
Rabbi Lt. Gen. Yisrael Weiss is also making every effort to
assist the conversion program and has brought in
dayonim from the special conversion courts.
The report in Ha'aretz indicates that the initiative
comes from the military and not from non-Jewish soldiers who
seek to convert. Even before their induction into the army
the IDF notifies non-Jewish soldiers about the possibility of
taking a course in Judaism and undergoing conversion during
their period of military service.
In the first phase of the program soldiers take a course on,
"Judaism and Zionism." Known as Netiv, the course is run by
the Institute for Jewish Studies, an organization maranan
verabonon banned outright years ago because it is a
partnership with the Conservative and Reform.
After the course, which lasts less than two months, the
soldiers are sent to two two-week seminars and then appear
before the Military Conversion Beis Din. The so-called
conversion process lasts a total of less than six months,
with a one-month interim between the course and the first
seminar, followed by another one-month break before the
The IDF boasts of how the "converts" are not obligated to
change their way of life or to have their spouses participate
in the program if they are married, again, unlike the policy
of the Israeli Rabbinate. If the "convert" has children he
does not have to transfer them to religious schools. Gen.
Stern, who wears a knitted yarmulke, says, "Nowhere does it
say that conversion applies to the spouse of the convert.
Conversion [in the IDF] is as amicable as possible. As far as
we are concerned the soldiers have already passed the main
test by the very fact they were inducted and agreed to
sacrifice their lives for the Jewish people. Fifty percent of
the soldiers who decide to convert at the end of the process
would not have come to us to begin with if the courses were
Ha'aretz quotes Glila Yaakobs, coordinator for soldier
"conversion" at the Joint Institute. "The fact our
instructors are soldiers puts the converts at ease because
they see in order to convert nobody expects them to turn into
The Vaad HaRabboni Haolami LeInyonei Giyur, founded by HaRav
Chaim Kreiswirth zt"l, says the IDF's wholesale
conversion system threatens to bring thousands of goyim into
Kerem Beis Yisroel. The number of conversions by the
special conversion courts has been relatively low due to the
bureaucracy the converts encountered, whereas in the army one
can undergo a `friendly' conversion while in uniform with
very little effort."
The Vaad says gedolei Yisroel zt"l vylct"a have always
warned against performing conversions in the army since the
secular atmosphere pervading the IDF is not conducive to
beginning to keep Torah and mitzvos in full, without which
the conversion is invalid even bedi'eved according to
all of the leading poskim.
"Conversions must be performed by established botei
din, which conduct thorough inquiries do determine
whether the candidate really is prepared to make a commitment
to keep Torah and mitzvos in full," says the Vaad.
Those who complete the IDF "conversion" program receive
official Chief Rabbinate of Israel conversion certificates, a
policy based on a decision by the Attorney General. These
facts came to light when the Justice Ministry prohibited
marriage registrars around the country from challenging
conversions performed in Israel. A letter Rabbinical Courts
Director Eli Ben-Dehan sent six months ago also states,
"Conversion certificates from the special conversion courts
must be accepted by marriage registrars without requiring
additional certification from other entities."
The majority of marriage registrars in Israel follow these
directives, thereby bringing numerous goyim into Kerem
Beis Yisroel. This policy is in direct contradiction to
gedolei Yisroel including HaRav Shach, HaRav Shlomo
Zalman Auerbach the Kehillas Yaakov and, ylct"a, Maran
HaRav Eliashiv shlita, who issued a decision on 15
Sivan 5744 reading, "We hereby warn all marriage registrars
that halochoh requires them to inquire into every conversion-
certificate holder to ascertain whether the conversion was
really performed according to halochoh before registering
The Vaad is calling on marriage registrars not to submit to
directives by government officials, but to conduct thorough
inquiries to insure every ger keeps Torah and mitzvos
in full before registering him or her for marriage.