The race for the Chief Rabbinate continued its loopy path this week, as
speculation emerged that Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, chief rabbi of Ramat Gan and a
former candidate for the position of Ashkenazi chief rabbi, is now in the lead
to be the national-religious candidate for the job.
According to a report
in Israel Hayom, senior national-religious Rabbi Haim Druckman is formulating a
plan to present Ariel as the consensus candidate of the community.
is a leading figure in the national-religious world and is well respected by
some in the haredi community, and, as such, may be more likely than any other
national-religious candidate to receive broad support from the electoral
Druckman told Israel Hayom that Ariel “is fitting” for the chief
rabbi’s post and that he was strongly optimistic that he would be the
But Ariel himself has yet to say whether or not he
intends to run, and told Israel Hayom that he first heard about his possible
candidacy in media reports.
In addition, a political source told The
Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that it was very unlikely the rabbi would run for
Rabbi David Stav, a leading national-religious candidate for
the chief rabbi position and chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical association, is
widely loathed by the haredi leadership.
Stav is also not well-liked by
more conservative elements of his national-religious movement.
national-religious candidate faces a struggle to be elected, as the 150-person
electoral body – comprised of chief municipal rabbis, mayors and national
political figures – has a large number of haredi members, including as many as
40 members loyal to the haredi Shas party.
The same political source
heavily criticized Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett for failing to endorse
Stav as the consensus national-religious candidate, blaming him for the
political games surrounding the race for Ashkenazi chief rabbi.
unified support from so many religious and secular parties who support Rabbi
Stav,” said the source. “Why is Naftali Bennett dragging his feet instead of
leading the revolution for a more Zionist, inclusive rabbinate. This is not what
he promised his voters.”
There are significant obstacles, however,
standing in the way of Ariel’s candidacy, most notably that a candidate must be
below the age of 70 to stand for election. Ariel is 79. Legislation could be
passed to change this law, but such a move may complicate matters
It is understood that should such a law be passed, Rabbi Yisrael
Meir Lau, the serving chief rabbi of Tel Aviv and former Ashkenazi chief rabbi,
would run for the position once again, thereby endangering the Ariel’s chances
as the national-religious candidate.
Furthermore, Stav has already been
endorsed by the Yisrael Beytenu, Yesh Atid and Labor parties, making it
difficult to pass the legislation needed to change maximum age of
The Tzohar national-religious rabbinical association, of
which Ariel is president, insists that Stav is not running as a candidate of the
national-religious political movement but as a consensus candidate for Israeli
society as a whole.
A source with ties to the national-religious rabbinic
leadership said on Wednesday that those opposed to Stav could view electing
Ariel – given his prominent position in the Tzohar organization – as letting
Stav in through the back door.
According to sources in Bayit Yehudi, the
party will accept Druckman’s recommendation for the national-religious
Deputy Minister for Religious Services Eli Ben- Dahan of Bayit
Yehudi is working and coordinating with Druckman on the
Speculation was rife in March that Shas and Bayit Yehudi would
arrive at a political deal whereby Bayit Yehudi would advance and pass
legislation to allow for a chief rabbi to serve two 10-year terms, thereby
allowing current Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to stand for election
In return, Shas would support the candidacy of the consensus
It is understood that Amar met with
Druckman earlier this week. A source within Bayit Yehudi said that for a deal
along these lines to be actualized, Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
would first need to publicly support the national- religious
Without such a statement, the source suggested, the party
would be extremely hesitant to pass legislation paving the way for Amar to stand
for reelection, given the fact that the election of the chief rabbis by the
electoral body is done by secret ballot.
During the election campaign for
the recently established government, Yosef spoke out harshly against Bayit
Yehudi for the party’s stance on religious issues, calling them “the house of
Sources in Tzohar said that the chances of getting Ariel
elected were slim and that his candidacy could serve to pave the way for a
haredi candidate to be elected as Ashkenazi chief rabbi.