Tallit (prayer shawl).
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
In light of the persistent contravention by haredi political parties of electoral regulations prohibiting the promise of spiritual or worldly benefit to voters, the Hiddush religious freedom NGO will submit a request to the elections committee on Thursday to issue an advance warning that such practices are banned.
The Elections Law prohibits anyone from promising spiritual reward, blessings, health, or wealth if a voter chooses a particular political party, and also prohibits curses or threats of spiritual punishment for not voting in the correct manner. Yet haredi parties frequently flout this law, as do the rabbis associated with them.
Hiddush will request that Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran, who heads the Central Elections Committee, issue a warning as soon as possible reiterating the ban on such practices and underlining the potential fines that can be imposed for contravening the law on this issue.
“The illegal manipulation of religious faith and blessings for long life, prosperity and children in return for votes have become the curse of Israel’s elections,” said Hiddush director Reform Rabbi Uri Regev.
“This is not a celebration of democracy but its abuse....We hope to be able to have the chairman of the Central Elections Committee take precautions and warn the parties that violations of the Elections Law will not be tolerated and will be severely sanctioned.”
Just last week, a well-known political activist for the Ashkenazi Degel Hatorah party, Rabbi Mordechai Bloi, said that women who do not vote for the United Torah Judaism party, of which Degel is a constituent, should be excommunicated and their children expelled from UTJ-run schools.
Numerous complaints were filed to the committee during the municipal elections in October 2013 and the general election in January that year.
In one example during the general election, a complaint was filed by Hiddush over a smartphone application launched by Shas on which one could request a blessing from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the late, revered spiritual guide of the party.
In the municipal elections, Shas promised that those who voted for Jerusalem mayor candidate Moshe Lion, who was backed by Shas, would receive “a blessing from God for long life, health, joy, and goodness in their years.”
In another instance, the administration of a girls school belonging to the Shas Ma’ayan Hatorah school network sent a letter to parents telling them to vote for Shas in accordance with the instructions of Yosef.
“We therefore ask for all parents to abide by the instructions of Maran [Rabbi Yosef], and we as a school operating under the [Shas-led] ‘Spring of Torah Education’ network are obligated to… vote together for Shas,” the letter read.
In one case during the general election, the Shas party handed out religious amulets, which are also prohibited.
Although the committee fined Shas NIS 37,000 over the incident, fines are rarely imposed.
Additionally, the process of filing a complaint and obtaining a ruling can take several days, by which time political advertisements, flyers and other electoral material will have already been disseminated.