2006: More Jews converting to Islam
New record: 70 Israeli citizens expected to convert to Islam this year - more than twice the number in previous years. Most are cases of Jewish, Christian women marrying Muslim men Nurit Palter
According to statistics from the Population Administration, 2006 will be a record year for Israeli Jews joining the Muslim religion. In the past few years, the number of conversions to Islam was relatively stable at 35 per year, but over 70 conversions were expected this year. In 2003, 40 Jews converted to Islam; in 2004 the number dropped to 27; and last year it stood at 33.
But the trend took a drastic turn this year, and Interior Ministry data showed that in the first half of 2006 alone 42 conversions were recorded, and a comparable number is expected throughout the second half of the year.
The process of converting to Islam is carried out at the Muslim religious court which operates according to Islamic law. In contrast to Jewish conversions, which last months and often years, to become Muslim one must only convince the court that one's intentions are sincere and declare faith in Allah.
Most are Jewish and Christian women who convert after choosing to marry Muslim men. The number of men who convert to Islam is far lower, but has also seen a rise.
"Jews say they decided to convert after deepening their knowledge of Islam.
Many are disappointed in Judaism," a senior member of the Islamic court said.
In the past, the Religious Affairs and Interior Ministries made it very difficult for Jews to convert to Islam. "They are giving me the runaround, sending me back and forth from office to office. They made me see a psychiatrist, to 'make sure I wasn't brainwashed.' They did everything so that I would despair and return to Judaism," one convert related.
The data revealed that the reverse phenomenon of Muslims converting to Judaism is significantly lower. In the first half of this year, there were only seven conversions to Judaism.
Statistics that reached Israel's leading daily Yedioth Ahronoth showed that Judaism continues to constitute a greater attractive force for Christians.
In 2003, 437 Christians converted to Judaism, in 2004 - 884, and in 2005 - 733. Since the beginning of 2006, 210 Christians converted to Judaism.
Yedioth reporter Paiz Abbas countered that according to data recorded by the Islamic appeals court, the numbers do not indicate an increase in the number of converts. Further, data show that the greatest number of converts during
2005 were from Jerusalem with 46, followed by Yaffo with 28, then Haifa and Akre with 25 and Nazereth with 22.