1,000 Evangelists Want to Convert, Make Aliyah to Samaria
A group of about 1,000 American Christians want to convert to Orthodox Judaism and make Aliyah to Israel. Specifically, they seek to make Samaria their home.
MK Lia Shemtov (Israel is Our Home), who is involved in the initiative, told Arutz Sheva's Hebrew-language service that the Christians are all members of a single large community who decided to move to Israel, convert and serve in the IDF, after realizing that they feel a special bond to Israel.
Shemtov said that the group requires special treatment because it wishes to make Aliyah first, and then convert. Otherwise, it could have been absorbed simply based upon the Law of Return, which grants citizenship to all Jews, converted or Jewish-born.
The Knesset member noted that the community's members are a highly educated group that wants to contribute to Israel. "I asked them how they reached this. After all, it is not easy to be a Jew and not simple to undergo giyur (conversion). They said that some of them had been to Israel on various programs and that they had been very impressed with it. Today they are still in the United States and instead of churches they have built a community that learns Hebrew, keeps the Sabbath and celebrates the Jewish holidays.
Shemtov has held what she said was "a good meeting" with officials in the Samaria local authority, to discuss the possibility that the group would make Aliyah to that region. She noted, however, that there were quite a few parameters that needed to be evaluated, regarding the conversion process and the absorption into Israel, and that she intends to continue to discuss the initiative with Aliyah organizers Nefesh b'Nefesh.
Asked whether the Christians' request could be part of an unstated plan to change Israel from within, Shemtov said she thinks it is not. Most of the applicants come from evangelical families that support Israel in action and assist it financially, she said, but the group's members have gone a step further in requesting giyur. In the past - so they told her - they believed that the Nation of Israel should be strengthened only so that one day it would accept Christianity. However, they now believe in the coming of the Messiah as it is predicted in Jewish tradition.
The group also faces criticism within the wider evangelical world and has therefore had to move into separate communities.
The Samaria local authority confirmed that the groups representatives had contacted it, but an official there noted that the Law of Return stipulates that only Jews can make Aliyah to Israel and receive citizenship. "If families from this group undergo Orthodox giyur and make Aliyah according to the Law of Return," he said, "we will of course be happy to absorb them in Samaria."
"In any case," the official added, "we see as a compliment the fact that families from abroad want to make Aliyah to Samaria."