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Israel Supreme Court eases rules for adopting non-Jewish children

Illustrative - A woman and her child walking along the Mediterranean coast in Israel, Jan. 21, 2021. (Photo: Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

The Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem ruled on Sunday that it would ease the currently restrictions for adopting non-Jewish children in the Jewish state.

The landmark decision is the culmination of a 20-year legal battle against the ultra-Orthodox monopoly on rules for childless Israeli couples to adopt non-Jewish children.

The rapidly growing ultra-Orthodox population, which currently constitutes almost 14% of the total Israeli population, has a disproportionate political influence on issues related to religion and Jewish identity in Israeli society. 

Israeli law previously stipulated that non-Jewish children would first have to undergo an ultra-Orthodox conversion in order to be legally adopted in Israel. By contrast, the new high court ruling states that the new adoption rules will be on a case-by-case basis and "in the best interests of the child." 

"The child's best interests include their concrete needs, past, specific characteristics and challenges," read the official statement from the Supreme Court in Jerusalem. The new ruling would make it easier for Israel’s non-Orthodox majority to adopt children. 

The Israeli high court is currently at the center of the ongoing judicial overhaul controversy that has plagued Israeli society for the past months. The Netanyahu-led government seeks to limit judicial review over government decisions and enacted laws.

Supporters of the judicial reform plan argue that it will strengthen Israeli democracy since limiting judicial review will provide elected officials in the Knesset and government sweeping powers with a simple majority.

By contrast, Israeli and international critics fear that undermining the high court’s independence will potentially undermine Israeli democracy by removing the judicial checks on the executive and legislative branches. 

Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin, one of the architects behind the judicial reform, reportedly admitted in early April that the original judicial overhaul plan could potentially threaten democracy in Israel. 

“This claim, that [the blurring of branches] could ultimately lead to a constitutional crisis, is a claim that can’t be ignored – this cannot happen in a democratic country,” said Levin. “I think it should have been heard. So what we did was simply come and say, 'Gentlemen, this valid concern is what we are responding to,” he added. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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