One of the fiercest and most intense elections in Israel’s history comes
to an end Wednesday with the election of the new Ashkenazi and Sephardi
chief rabbis by special vote in Jerusalem.
Wednesday afternoon with Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat among the first to
vote at the poll in the Leonardo Hotel. The polls closed at 6 p.m.
150 people eligible to vote, including 80 rabbis representing religious councils and 70
lay officials representing the government, the Knesset and local
authorities, 147 cast their votes on Wednesday.
The vote was held over three hours in the
afternoon, with Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan set to announce the results at
The Ashkenazi race pits Shoham Chief Rabbi David Stav against
Modi’in Chief Rabbi David Lau and Merkaz Harav yeshiva head Ya’acov
Beersheba Chief Rabbi Yehuda Deri and Jerusalem Rabbinical Court
head Eliyahu Abergel quit the race for Sephardi chief rabbi on Tuesday, leaving
four candidates: Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Hazon Ovadia yeshiva head
Yitzhak Yosef, High Rabbinical Court Judge Zion Boaron and Kiryat Ono Chief
Rabbi Ratzon Arusi.
Both races feature face-offs between the
religious-Zionist and ultra-Orthodox camps. Religious Zionists support Stav and
Eliyahu, while haredim back Lau and Yosef. Stav has the backing of Bayit Yehudi,
Yisrael Beytenu and Hatnua, while Shas leaders are campaigning intensively for
Yosef and Lau.
The election of Yosef, the son of Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia
Yosef, is considered key to the survival of the party. Shas faction chairman
Ariel Attias said that based on conversations with nearly the entire electorate,
he was positive Yosef would win. Attias dismissed the chances of Boaron, who has
the backing of outgoing Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar.
and Eliyahu would mean a major victory for Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali
Eliyahu has gained support following attempts by Attorney-General Yehuda
Weinstein to prevent him from running, due to past statements Weinstein
racist. A group of protesters demonstrated against Eliyahu's candidacy
outside of the polling station in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On on Wednesday called the Chief Rabbinate a corrupt and nepotistic institution.
said the Chief Rabbinate is an institution that "promotes homophobia
and the exclusion of women and non of the candidates intend to change
She added that the institution represented Orthodoxy and
was "not interested to forward a more progressive and pluralistic
Gal-On called for the need to separate religion from
state in Israel, abolish the official standing of the Chief Rabbinate
and cease its funding.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has refrained from endorsing a
candidate, although he is considered close to Lau’s father, former Ashkenazi chief
rabbi and current Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau.
might be the last race for the Chief Rabbinate in which both an Ashkenazi and
Sephardi chief rabbi will be elected: Bayit Yehudi and Hatnua both
support a proposal by Likud MK Moshe Feiglin to elect only one chief
rabbi when the term of the rabbis named on Wednesday ends in 10 years. Bennett and
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni of Hatnua sent a letter to the chief rabbi
candidates on Tuesday stating their intention to merge the two chief rabbi
According to the Bennett-Livni proposal, one rabbi will hold
the chief rabbi position, while another will serve as the president of the
High Rabbinical Court.
Livni and Bennett intend to implement their
initiative in the term of the rabbis elected on Wednesday, their letter
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.