Great generic picture of Knesset 150.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The Knesset did almost nothing to promote religious freedom in this year’s
summer session, according to religious equality NGO Hiddush’s third annual
report, which it released this week.
“Apparently fear of Shas and United
Torah Judaism has paralyzed the Knesset, making it unable to solve problems
related to freedom of religion and equality in the burden of [IDF and national]
service,” Hiddush director-general Rabbi Uri Regev said.
Calling the last
few months “a waste,” the organization pointed out that MKs spent most of the
session focusing on equality in the burden of service, but all eight bills and
five no-confidence motions on the topic were voted down.
“The Knesset not
only failed to pass a law for equality in the burden, but left behind a
situation of legislative chaos,” the report reads, referring to the fact that
the “Tal Law,” which enabled yeshiva students to defer army service, expired on
Wednesday with no replacement. “The Knesset missed a historic opportunity and
went on a long vacation in the middle of a national crisis.”
also points out that the Knesset did not find a solution for hesder yeshivot,
which were part of the now-defunct Tal Law.
However, the Ministerial
Committee for Legislation authorized a bill anchoring the national-religious
yeshivot in legislation, which passed a preliminary reading in the
The biggest accomplishment of the summer session, according to
the report, is the Tzohar Bill, which passed in its first reading at the end of
The legislation, which MK Faina Kirschenbaum (Yisrael Beytenu)
proposed, seeks to allow couples to register for marriage in the city or
municipal jurisdiction of their choice, regardless of where they reside,
something that at present is prohibited by law.
Hiddush lamented that the
issue of discrimination against women was mostly absent from the Knesset’s
agenda. Only one bill, by MK Isaac Herzog (Labor) was submitted, and it was
voted down in a preliminary vote.
The NGO singled out MK Michael Ben-Ari
(National Union) for criticism, because he was photographed tearing up a New
Testament that missionaries had sent to the Knesset and throwing it in the
In addition, the report mentioned anti-gay comments from MKs
Anastasia Michaeli (Yisrael Beytenu) and Uri Ariel (National Union). Michaeli
said most gay people had been sexually harassed when they were younger, and
according to Ariel, gay enlistment in the military harms the IDF’s ability to
“I hope the next Knesset will have the ability and the spine to
deal with these issues,” Regev stated.
In a dig at the Likud’s alliance
with haredi parties, Regev said that after the next election, “it is important
that a coalition be formed without ‘natural partners’ that are hostile to
freedom of religion. Only then can there be a civil revolution, for which the
public in Israel is waiting.”