The Israel Bar Association angered a raft of liberal and women’s groups on
Tuesday by failing to select a woman to serve on the Appointments Committee for
The committee, which is headed by Justice Minister
Yaakov Neeman and holds the power to elect judges to the country’s 12 regional
rabbinical courts, voted instead to elect attorneys Asher Axelrod and Mordechai
One of the principle powers of the rabbinical courts is
jurisdiction over matters of divorce, something that progressive groups see as
prejudicial to the rights of women, who are at a disadvantage in divorce
proceedings due to certain stipulations of Jewish law.
Rabbi Uri Regev,
director of the religious equality organization Hiddush, denounced the result as
“a victory of political deals over the values and principles of equality and
civil liberties” – a reference to a deal struck between internal factions of the
Bar Association, which eliminated the chance that a woman would be
“To have an all-male committee might have been acceptable
several decades ago, but in 2011, this is no longer the case,” he told The
“I would have expected the Bar Association to be guided,
formally or informally, by the notion of advancing the status of women in
Israel, especially in light of the tremendous impact the selection of dayanim
[judges] has on the plight of women who fall into hands of the rabbinic courts,”
he went on.
“Their freedom, dignity and property are all impacted
directly by the identity of the dayanim who will be appointed.”
and similar organizations regard the appointment of women to the committee as a
vital goal in influencing the makeup of rabbinical courts across the country.
The 10-member committee consists of the two chief rabbis, two rabbinical judges
from the Rabbinical Court of Appeals, two government ministers, two Knesset
members, and two attorneys selected by the Bar Association.
been at least one woman on the committee for the past 12 years.
within the Bar Association described the panel’s new composition as a 20-year
setback in the pursuit of reform on critical issues such as divorce and mamzerut
(the status of children born out of wedlock to a married woman). According to
the source, the once-in-a-generation opportunity to fill empty seats on the
Rabbinic Court of Appeals with progressive rabbinical judges will be
Two months ago, Yuri Geiron, the head of the Bar Association’s
largest internal faction, pledged to the International Coalition for Agunah
Rights (ICAR) to support the candidacy of a woman. According to sources within
the bar, however, due to a deal with Eisenberg – the head of the association’s
haredi (ultra- Orthodox) faction – Geiron shifted his support to him, and in
return, Eisenberg pledged support for Geiron in the elections for the bar
chairmanship – which he nevertheless lost.
“It is a black day for the Bar
Association, that they had to sell out women for the ultra-Orthodox, and
everyone will pay the price in the future,” said Robyn Shames, ICAR’s executive
Among those who lost out in the election, which took place on
Tuesday evening, were two unaffiliated candidates running on a liberal,
religious Zionist platform.
“I understand the position of the women’s
rights organizations,” Geiron told the Post
in response, “and I also believe
that it is the right one, and for 12 years I personally implemented this stance,
voting for women to represent the Bar Association on the committee for
appointing rabbinical judges. Unfortunately, due to certain circumstances that
arose and the storm engulfing the legal world in Israel, and specifically the
Bar Association, I had to give up this principle, which until now was a guiding
light for me.”
He stated that his faction had been a leader in promoting
and electing women to public office in a number of legal realms, such as the
selection committee for Qadis of the state Sharia courts.
faction or grouping in the Bar Association office has done as much as has my
faction, ‘Lishka Aheret,’” he said. “This time it was not feasible, but it is
possible that in light of this, it will oblige me to double my commitment in the
ICAR announced on Monday that in light of the (then-expected)
selection of Axelrod and Eisenberg, it had prepared a draft bill for the Knesset
to reserve two slots on the committee for women. The law was proposed on Monday
by MKs Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi), Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), Einat Wilf
(Labor), Orit Zuaretz (Kadima) and Zehava Gal-On (Meretz).
director of women’s divorce rights organization Mavoi Satum, called the failure
to appoint even one female representative to the committee “a badge of shame”
for society and the legal system.
“The lack of female representation
deepens the outrageous [religious and gender] imbalance that exists on the
committee, which also includes only three non-haredi members,” she said. “The
rabbinical courts are a state institution which are supposed to serve the
Religious Zionist parties also weighed in on the issue,
including the Ne’emanei Torah Ve’avodah group, which deplored “the takeover of
the courts system by extreme haredi, anti-Zionist [elements].”
Association’s selection of a haredi representative, because of a political
deal... will result in the tightening of ultra-Orthodox parties’ control over
the appointment of rabbinical judges,” the group said in a statement.
also criticized the lack of female representation. “The fact that the committee
is responsible for the fate of many women, but that there is no room for even
one woman, proves once again the extent to which the committee is completely
detached from the people.”