Sisterhood Blog

If Ruth the Moabite Had Sought Israeli Citizenship

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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If the current Israeli government were in power back in biblical times, there is a good chance that there would actually be no State of Israel today in need of governing. This is the message of a simulated correspondence between the Israel Religious Action Center and Israel’s Ministry of Interior, written by Anat Hoffman, IRAC’s executive director and chairwoman of Women of the Wall.

In the fictional exchange, posted on IRAC’s website — an exchange more fitting in style to Purim than this week’s holiday of Shavuot — Hoffman petitions Interior Minister Eli Yishai on behalf of Ruth the Moabite, who seeks legal status in Israel. Hoffman asserts that Ruth (whose megillah Rut is read by Jews on Shavuot) is the widow of a Jewish man; entered Israel legally with her mother-in-law, Naomi; chose to align herself with the Jewish people, and has a sponsor in the upstanding citizen Boaz, who intends to marry her.

Predictably — at least for anyone who follows the politics of Israel and Jewish pluralism — the Interior Ministry denies Ruth’s request for legal residency status and orders her deportation back to Moab. She will not be allowed to reapply for re-entry into Israel until she has embarked upon and competed a wild goose chase in search of impossible-to-procure documents to prove her Jewishness.

And here’s the kicker to the Ministry’s response:

The position of the minister is that one must regret the situation in which a respected Jewish citizen of such high status, such as Boaz son of Salmah, requests to marry a non-Jewish woman. Do we lack proper women here in Israel? It is necessary and advisable to take into account the status of the expected children from such a union.

All those who are familiar with the Book of Ruth are aware that she — a convert to Judaism — was the great-grandmother of King David. Had there been no King David, then Jews and Israelis, especially those profiled in the recent “60 Minutes” report on the City of David excavations and Jewish settlement in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem, would be without one of their primary claims legitimizing the historical Jewish connection to Eretz Yisrael.

And to throw in a little extra irony, the anti-Jewish pluralism Interior Minister shares a name with David’s father, and Ruth’s grandson, Yishai.

Yes, it all sounds like an absurd Purim prank. Only it’s not. It’s Shavuot this week, and it’s reality.


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