Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, a leading figure in the national-religious community, said
in conversation with his students this week that women should not stand for
election to the Knesset.
“It is forbidden for a woman to serve as member
of Knesset, it’s not modest,” the rabbi said. “Public exposure contradicts the
Jewish principle that ‘all the glory of the daughter of a king is internal,’”
Aviner added in comments first published on the Kipa website.
subsequently stated in a letter to Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely that his comments
were taken out of context.
“For sure, the Torah ideal is that women
should not be involved in politics, but clearly, if there will be women in the
Knesset anyway, then certainly one should vote for those women that will bring
the most blessing to the nation,” wrote Aviner.
Since Hotovely’s Likud
party has places on its electoral list reserved for women, her political
activities are to be praised, he concluded.
Speaking to The Jerusalem
Post on Wednesday, the rabbi said that he made his comments in a general
theoretical lesson on the issue according to Jewish law, and that it was not
meant to be an “operative” ruling.
However, he reconfirmed his position
that, based on the rulings of Rabbi Avraham Hacohen Kook, the first chief rabbi
of Palestine, women running for political office is not an ideal
Opposition to the rabbi’s comments came from several quarters,
including Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, another prominent national-religious
“I don’t understand where this perspective came from, that a
woman serving in a public office is not modest,” Cherlow said on Galei Yisrael
radio station on Wednesday, adding as an aside that it is also incumbent on men
to behave in a modest way in positions of public service.
“How is it
possible to say that by definition a woman working in a public position is doing
something immodest?” he added, saying that from his perspective women should be
encouraged to participate in the political life of the country in order that
their voices are heard.
The Hiddush religious freedom lobbying group also
weighed in, describing Aviner’s stance as anachronistic and part of a “worrying
One renowned female Jewish leader is Deborah the Prophet, a
leader in the biblical era of the Judges.
Aviner said that the political
involvement during biblical times of Deborah the prophet came about because
there was no one else at the time who could take the leadership role.