Ultra-Orthodox Jews look towards the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem's Old City.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The religious establishment has reacted furiously to a Supreme Court ruling allowing the Reform and Masorti (Conservative) Movements in Israel to use public mikvaot (ritual baths) for conversion immersion ceremonies.
The non-Orthodox movements had filed an appeal to the Supreme Court in 2010 against a lower court decision upholding the right of the Beersheba Religious Council to prevent Reform and Conservative converts from using public mikvaot in the city.
The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that this ban was discriminatory and “inconsistent with the duty of the administrative authority to act with equality in all its actions.”
Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef described the ruling as “wretched” and “outrageous,” and accused the non-Orthodox movements of making arbitrary use of Jewish law for their own ends.
“The Reform are undermining the Jewish identity of the State of Israel and are using Jewish law for their needs only when it suits them,” the chief rabbi said.
“The court cannot with one hand satisfy the desire of a tiny handful of people and with the other hand strike a mortal wound to the masses of Jews who want Jewish life in accordance with Jewish law and the continued preservation of the true Jewish identity of the state,” he added.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the Reform Movement in Israel, responded that Yosef’s comments only highlight the “out-of-date” nature of the “Orthodox monopoly” over religious issues in the state.
“A clear majority of the public supports full recognition of the non-Orthodox denominations, and step-by-step this goal will be achieved, which will only strengthen the Jewish identity of the State of Israel,” said Kariv.
“Rabbi Yosef will continue to use undignified language, and we will continue to establish facts on the ground.”
Meanwhile, fiery United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni said on Friday that he would introduce a bill this week establishing that public mikvaot will be operated only in accordance with the Chief Rabbinate’s instructions – essentially hinting that the new law would once again ban the non-Orthodox movements from using them.
Gafni claimed that the coalition agreement signed by UTJ with the Likud stipulates that if any violation of the status quo on religion and state issues occurs during the government’s tenure, UTJ can insist on rectifying the violation through legislation.