The appointment of a woman for the first time to jointly head a local religious
council has aroused the ire of senior haredi politician MK Moshe
Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett appointed Leah Biton
to the position of co-supervisor of the local religious council in Acre, as he is
authorized to do in a situation when, due to political stalemate on the
municipal level, a full council cannot be agreed upon.
harshly to the news and severely criticized Bennett over the appointment in
comments made to the haredi Yated Neeman newspaper.
“Bennett is a bum who
tries the whole time to prove that he’s not religious and is not interested in
the tradition that exists in this regard,” the paper quoted the MK as
“He doesn’t succeed in anything but he’s trying hard to prove
he’s secular and doesn’t care about the tradition that’s been here for years.
He’s not succeeding in anything he’s doing and is looking for all kinds of
headlines to get all kinds of applause like from the Hiddush organization,
something that proves who his friends are.”
Hiddush, a religious equality
lobbying organization, highlighted the appointment on Wednesday last week and
praised Bennett for the step.
In response to Gafni’s comments, Bennett
posted a picture of the Yated Neeman headline on his Facebook page saying “Gafni
is a brother.”
Local religious councils are responsible for
administrative affairs pertaining to religious services in regional districts.
According to Hiddush, of the 135 local religious councils throughout the
country, approximately half consist of elected members and half consist of two
appointees, following a failure to reach political agreement on the council’s
Of 130 appointees, two for each council, there was just one
woman serving as a co-supervisor before Biton’s appointment.
director-attorney and Reform Rabbi Uri Regev wrote to the attorney-general in
2011 on the issue, stating that discrimination against women for appointments to
the position of supervisors for local religious councils was a serious
phenomenon since the position is an administrative appointee subject to the
principles of equality according to state law.
appointment, Regev welcomed Bennett’s step but said a lot more needed to be done
in order to reach a situation of equality on the issue.
councils are an excellent example of a field in which the female public pays a
heavy price for the shameful way in which the parties of government would
cheaply sell their civil rights to the haredi parties,” said Regev.
best way to put an end to the discrimination against women and for the defective
functioning of local religious councils is to abolish them immediately and
transfer [responsibility for] religious services to local authorities. As long
as this is not done, full representation for women must be ensured on the
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