A breakdown of Israeli population statistics by the 0404 news site, affiliated with Channel 20, made in the wake of controversial comments by Chief Sephardic Rabbi Hagaon Harav Yitzchak Yosef, shlita, shows that, indeed, a large number of immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union are not halachically Jewish. The breakdown was based on figures supplied by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Harav Yosef was castigated Tuesday for comments he made on the relationship of immigrants from former Soviet Union countries to Judaism. On Tuesday, Yediot Acharonot reported that Harav Yosef said at a recent conference that “hundreds of thousands or at least tens of thousands of non-Jews are in Israel because of the ‘Who is a Jew’ law,” which allows immigrants to enter Israel as Jews if either parent or grandparent is Jewish.
“There are many non-Jews here, some of them communists who hate religion. They are not Jewish at all. They come here and vote for parties that incite against chareidim and religion.”
Harav Yosef said that these people were brought to Israel on purpose, “to act as a counterbalance to the chareidim, proportionally reducing their representation in the Knesset. Unfortunately we are seeing the results of their incitement.”
The comments raised condemnation from throughout the political spectrum, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu saying that the comments “are harmful and out of place. Immigration from former Soviet Union countries has been a tremendous blessing for the Jewish people and the State of Israel. My government will continue to act to bring in immigrants and absorb them.” Netanyahu did not mention Harav Yosef when issuing his statement, but other politicians did, with several of them calling for police to investigate the “hateful” comments.
But the news site’s breakdown of data showed that Harav Yosef was on the mark. According to the CBS numbers, there were approximately 448,000 “other” immigrants – defined as non-Jewish from former Soviet Union countries living in Israel in 2019.
“Others,” as defined by the CBS, include those whose declared religion is either not Jewish or Muslim, or undeclared. Over 100,000 of these live in Tel Aviv and the center of the country, with another 59,000 in the south and 30,000 in the north. Only 10,000 live in Yerushalayim.
Of these, 340,000 were of voting age. According to the report, 69% of them voted in the September election, which meant they were responsible for approximately 6 Knesset seats, the report said.
In response to the calls for the ouster of the Rishon LeTzion, by MK Avigdor Liberman, the Shas party released a statement, saying that “the main person responsible for incitement and torture of the nation is Avigdor Liberman. Liberman’s entire desire is to end Netanyahu’s term as prime minister out of personal hatred and revenge that puts him on his mind and so he tries to gain as many votes as possible, and be built to create a schism and tear up the people of Israel.
“Liberman knowingly misunderstood the words of Harav Yitzchak Yosef, who referred to the non-Jewish immigrants who unfortunately utilized a breach of the ‘grandson’s clause’ in the Law of Return. Harav Yitzchak Yosef did not say a single word against our Jewish brothers and sisters, Russian immigrants, who have brought a tremendous blessing to the State of Israel and maintained their Jewishness and religion despite the great difficulties for decades.
“The Shas movement will not lend its hand to the campaign of persecution of Chief Rabbi Harav Yitzchak Yosef, because of our belief and opinion that he is required by his role as a spiritual leader for the people of Israel.”