The committee for selecting Jerusalem’s chief rabbis will have to change the
criteria it was using, following a High Court of Justice hearing on Wednesday
during which the justices accepted the claims of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat that
the current selection process is faulty.
In late July, Barkat filed a
petition against Religious Services Minister Ya’acov Margi (Shas) and the
committee selecting the capital’s rabbis, demanding clear and egalitarian
criteria in the committee’s work and asking the court to issue an intermediary
order halting any further progress in the selection process until the contested
issues are resolved.
Barkat, represented by attorney Aviad Hacohen,
agreed to withdraw his petition following the ministry’s agreement to reconsider
the issues at hand, including the equal representation of all residents in the
election process, and determining proper procedures for the committee’s
Barkat called Wednesday’s resolution “an important decision, that
will prevent further opportunism, and enable the election of a Zionist rabbi to
the city, alongside a haredi one.”
The Religious Affairs Ministry had no
comment on Wednesday.
The city has had no official rabbi since 2002. In
2005, Barkat filed a petition against then-prime minister Ariel Sharon in his
capacity as religious affairs minister, to force him to act toward the election
of a city rabbi.
In December of that year, at the behest of the Jerusalem
Municipality, the search was expanded to include two city rabbis.
general elections of 2006 brought the process to a halt, and according to
Tuesday’s petition, regulations published in 2007 included lacunas meant to make
the selection process more difficult.
According to the petition, the
selection of the committee’s members violated the rules of proper conduct, and
aimed to promote the selection of haredi rabbis.
Furthermore, Barkat said
that the selection of Jerusalem synagogues whose congregants will ultimately
participate in the rabbis’ choice, was done “against criteria... in a selective,
Barkat is not concealing the fact that he wants a
national-religious rabbi elected for a city that is over two-thirds non-haredi, an
aim that was part of his election platform in 2008.