The High Court of Justice on Monday delayed ruling on a petition calling for
female representation on the state body that appoints rabbinical judges because
of the upcoming elections.
The delay will further postpone the
appointment of rabbinical judges, which are currently in short supply on the
court benches, since the High Court granted a temporary injunction at the
beginning of this year in favor of the petitioners, freezing the appointments
Supreme Court President Elyakim Rubenstein, one of the three
presiding judges, voiced unambiguous support for ensuring that a place on the
10- member selection committee for rabbinical judges is reserved for women, but
said that it would be better to wait until after the coming general election on
January 22 before issuing a final ruling.
The next hearing on the issue
will now be held within 90 days of the election.
Women’s rights advocacy
group Emunah, along with several other organizations, submitted the petition in
November 2011, which argues that the lack of female representation on the
committee violates gender equality laws.
During the hearing, Rubenstein
said acidly that several “miracles” could occur following the elections,
including the appointment of a female justice minister, who automatically gets a
seat on the committee.
He added that it was also possible that if the
composition of the Knesset changes significantly in the elections, the
likelihood of advancing legislation on guaranteeing a woman a place on the
committee could increase, something Rubenstein described as
The haredi Knesset factions Shas and United Torah Judaism put
a freeze on this legislation back in January, claiming that it would change the
status quo on religious affairs and thus infringe coalition
In delaying the High Court’s ruling, Rubenstein said the
state had guaranteed not to make any more appointments before the
In March, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman made three temporary
appointments to the Supreme Rabbinical Court, which desperately needs to fill
several spots on its bench in order to clear a growing backlog of
The selection committee is comprised of the two serving chief
rabbis, two members of Knesset, two rabbinical judges – known as dayanim – from
the Supreme Rabbinical Court, two ministers – one of whom is automatically the
justice minister – and two attorneys the Israel Bar Association
The Bar Association’s selection of two male candidates to the
committee last November meant that there would be no women on the committee for
the first time in 12 years.
One of the principle powers of the rabbinical
courts is jurisdiction over all matters of marriage and divorce, something that
women’s rights groups see as prejudicial since women are at a disadvantage in
divorce proceedings due to certain stipulations of Jewish law.
of this, Emunah and other groups have assigned high priority to the task of
guaranteeing female representation on the selection committee.
International Coalition For Agunah Rights said on Monday it would be lobbying
the major political parties in the run-up to the elections to convince them that
securing female representation on the committee was an important aspect of
social change which needed to be part of coalition agreements in efforts to form
a new government.
Rabbi Shlomo Daichovsky, the director of the rabbinical
courts system, said he supported legislation guaranteeing female representation
on the selection committee which would provide for at least three women on the