Israel’s ambulance service Magen David Adom has established a supervisory
rabbinic body to provide guidelines regarding appropriate religious practices,
in particular the issue of men and women serving in the agency together, it was
reported on Monday.
MDA has come under intense pressure from the
ultra-Orthodox community in recent years to prevent haredi men serving together
Last year, leading haredi figures Rabbi Aharon Leib
Schteinman and Rabbi Haim Kanievsky published a letter forbidding their
community from volunteering with the service because of concerns over modesty
and mixed gender emergency crews. The rabbis recommended that haredim volunteer
for alternative emergency service groups such as Hatzalah and Zaka which have
According to Monday’s report in Haaretz, the MDA’s
new “Committee for Judaism and Jewish Law” will be headed by Rabbi Shmuel
Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Safed, along with another senior rabbinical figure.
Eliyahu confirmed the report.
In response, Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz
heavily criticized MDA for bowing to haredi demands.
“MDA’s surrender is
humiliating and unacceptable,” he said. “If MDA has spare funds, it should use
them to buy medical equipment and not to provide patronage to haredi politicos
for them to issue religious dictates.”
He said he would demand an
emergency hearing in the Knesset Finance Committee to fight the
Horowitz added that there already exists “an unacceptable
situation today” of gender separate MDA teams in religious communities, and that
the attempt to formally regulate this practice and to expand it to other locales
needs to be opposed.
The MK also denounced the decision to appoint
Eliyahu to the committee, calling him “a dark and racist man,” in light of
statements made by the rabbi about the Arab minority in Israel, including a
ruling in 2010 he made forbidding Jews to rent or sell property to Arabs in
Eliyahu has been subject to police investigations over some of his
comments, on suspicion of incitement to racial hatred.
publication of the report, a spokesman for MDA issued a statement saying that
the committee was established to enable religious Jewish volunteers to continue
working within the service.
“The committee was established in order to
make it easier for workers and volunteers [to work in the ambulance service],
and its task will be to examine and recommend procedures and measures to the
management that will enable all observant Jews to work and volunteer in MDA,”
the statement read.