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03/28/2023 Israel (International Christian Concern) – Two members of Israeli’s party, United Torah Judaism (UTJ), Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Asher have proposed to the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) new legislation to punish any conversions to Christianity with imprisonment. In the words of the proposed law, “Recently attempts of missionary groups, mainly Christians, to solicit conversion of religion have increased.” This is not the first-time members of the UTJ party, particularly Moshe Gafni, who has served 35 years in government, have pushed forward bans on Christian outreach activity in Israel on several occasions since 1999. However, this is the first effort made while both lawmakers are members of the current governing coalition, arguably the most religiously extremist Jewish government seen in Israel’s history.

Historically, any religious proselytization to minors in Israel has been banned. While the proposed new law acknowledges that “at times these attempts [solicit conversion of religion] do not involve monetary promises or material gains are therefore not illegal according to the current law,” Gafni and Asher further state that the “many negative repercussions, including psychological damages, warrant the intervention of the legislature.” The law proposes a 1-year imprisonment for “someone who solicits a person, directly, digitally, by mail, or online in order to convert his religion”. It also stipulates a 2-year imprisonment for the same act towards a minor.”

Considering past failed attempts to pass similar legislation, it appears unlikely at this point that the law will pass. It does come at a significant time when the current governing coalition are attempting controversial and large-scale overhauls to the judicial system in response to their own frustrations at the Supreme’s Counts historical blocking of more extreme initiatives made by parties such as UTJ, including on religious freedom issues.

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