YNET published the news on Sunday, June 4, 2017, that the High Court of Justice handed down a temporary decision that non-Jewish soldiers are not obliged to attend meetings that propose conversion to Judaism to them.

Read the article in YNET here

High Court judge, Yoram Danziger, handed down a temporary decision on Sunday that the army will not oblige Sergeant Stansilaw Yorovski, a non-Jewish officer serving in the army, to participate in an explanatory meeting that encourages conversion to Judaism organized in the army by the organization “Netiv”. The story was revealed for the first time in YNET and after publication a number of other non-Jewish soldiers addressed themselves to the Association for Civil Rights, which was a partner in the case put before the High Court and declared that they too had been obligated to participate in these meetings although they had no desire to do so.

Last week, we revealed an army document according to which non-Jewish soldiers are ordered by a military command to attend the explanatory meetings that propose conversion. In the plea submitted by Sergeant Yorovsky to the High Court against the army, he claimed that he was not interested in attending the meeting. Judge Danziger decided in an interim ruling given in favor of the plaintiff that the army has two weeks to respond. Thereafter, the High Court will convene in order to hold an in depth discussion of the plea and a final decision will be made with regard to this issue.

Sergeant Yorovsky immigrated to Israel from Uzbekistan in 2000 with his non-Jewish mother. According to him, he declared a number of times that he did not want to convert. “ The policy of the army is to identify and label soldiers that are not Jewish or are not registered as Jews,” it was said in the plea. “The army addressed again and again soldiers proposing that they convert during their military service and obliges them to attend the explanatory meetings and this is an infringement on the basic rights of the plaintiff to his freedom of religion, conscience, privacy and respect”.

According to the plea, Yorovsky was ordered to attend the meeting about conversion that will take place next Thursday despite the fact that he declared that he was not interested in it. The officer demanded to know why the army was making use of details from the Ministry of the Interior that had nothing to do with his military service and to his functioning like details about his religion or his spiritual status and why the army was thus infringing on his privacy. In the plea it was revealed that during the officers’ course in which Yorovsky participated in August 2016, he was told that he had to attend the conversion course by military command. “The plaintiff had already declared at the time of his conscription that he was not interested in converting”.

According to the officer, from the time of his conscription he has been harassed because of his being not Jewish, harassment that was taken the form of repeated propositions that he convert to Judaism. In the plea, he pointed out that once every few weeks those responsible for him told him that he should convert “because this would improve his life in Israel because it is better for Jews here”. The Association for Civil Rights has argued that those who do not collaborate and are not ready to participate in the meetings, eight of which take place each year, are treated as befits their refusal. “Another non-Jewish soldier has come to us this year who felt labeled by his commanders and discriminated against in relation to other Jewish soldiers after he was ordered to attend the meetings about conversion,” the Association commented in the plea that was submitted. According to the Association, the chief military legal advisor, Sharon Afek is studying their demand to cancel the obligation to attend the meetings.

The army spokesperson commented in response: “The army allows soldiers to participate in the “Netiv” courses, which include the possibility to convert. A few times a year meetings are held with the participation of the soldiers that are concerned in order to inform them of the course and is details. Within these meetings it is explicitly stated that the soldiers are not obligated to participate in the actual course. Today a plea was submitted to the High Court in order to cancel the army’s obligation of soldiers to participate in the explanatory meetings. The response of the state to this plea will be submitted to the court in due time.”