The fate of two bills that could transform religious services lays in the hands
of Bayit Yehudi ministers, who have the ability to veto any legislation related
Bayit Yehudi is fighting to postpone a Ministerial Committee
on Legislation vote on the bills to change how the chief rabbis are elected from
Sunday to an unknown date. The party had yet to decide whether it would exercise
its veto power or not as of Saturday night.
The faction has yet to choose
which candidates it will back for chief rabbi. As such, the party’s ministers
could not decide in a Thursday night meeting whether or not the bills, which
would add women to the selection committee and require candidates to be
qualified as municipal rabbis or rabbinical judges, among other changes, would
help or hinder its eventual candidate.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni
insisted on Saturday night that the two bills proposed by MKs Elazar Stern
(Hatnua) and Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) be brought to a vote. A final decision must
be made by Sunday morning.
The ministerial committee is expected to
authorize on Sunday a different religious reform bill proposed by Lavie and MK
Shuli Muallem (Bayit Yehudi) to reserve spots for women on the committee that
appoints religious judges.
“Religious courts are responsible for women’s
status as Jews in the State of Israel,” the bill explains.
current rabbinical courts, according to Jewish law, there are only male dayanim
[judges]. The courts deal with women’s issues and men and women appear before
The legislation would have half of the representatives of the
cabinet, Knesset and the Bar Association be female, and a female rabbinical
pleader be the 11th member of the committee.
“We all protest when we see
examples of women being excluded from public spaces, but avert our eyes when it
happens in the most obvious way, in a place with great influence,” Lavie
“The panel to appoint dayanim directly affects women, and the fact
that it does not include even one woman proves we must pass a law to make sure
women are fairly represented,” she added.
Muallem pointed out that half
of the people appearing before rabbinical courts are women, adding that the
legislation would strengthen Israeli society’s connection to Judaism while
acting within halachic frameworks.