Lebanon's Orthodox Law: locals turn to Judaism for answers

Last week, lawmakers in Lebanon's parliamentary committees said yes to sectarianism when they approved a controversial Orthodox Gathering proposal, following a walk-out by MPs from the Future Movement and Progressive Socialist Party.

The draft law - which says that, when voting for the parliament's general commission, Lebanese citizens can only choose candidates of their own sect - has faced serious criticism since last Wednesday, when over half of the Lebanese deputies voted in favor of pushing it to parliament for a final decision.

One of the key criticisms of the Orthodox Gathering proposal is its treatment of Lebanon's Jewish community.

While the law stipulates that people of all other sects must vote for one of their own, Lebanese Jews are allowed to vote as they please.

Critics were quick to accuse the proposal of 'punishing' the Jewish community by seeking to terminate what is left of the sect in Lebanon, using the country's constitution, which guarantees equality for all citizens before the law, to challenge the draft.

But rather than put an end to Lebanon's Jewish community, it seems the unpopular proposal is actually attracting new converts to the sect.

According to the official Facebook page of Beirut's Maghen Abraham Synagogue, a number of people in Lebanon are considering converting to Judaism to 'circumvent' these clauses in the law.

One disgruntled netizen, Gus Naamani, posted on the page: 'So can anyone in this group insight us on how we can legally convert to Judaism in Beirut? Very serious about this! I really think this is gonna trend soon in Lebanon anyway! #stupid #electoral #law!'

Others also appeared to approach the group in all seriousness with questions about the process of converting.

The move to convert to Judaism by residents of the tiny Mediterranean country is a radical one, particularly given the nation’s torrid history with neighboring Jewish state, Israel.

In May 2000, after a 22 year occupation, Israel withdrew from South Lebanon in accordance with the demands of the United Nations. Many in Lebanon still resent their neighbor for the violence during the military rule.

But Beirut's Maghen Abraham Synagogue seems keen to prove that Lebanon is still home to a community of Arab Jews who deserve the same rights as other sects.

For the tiny synagogue the controversial law is not just a way of pushing Jews out into the cold but strangely, a new recruitment tool in the least likely of places.