Moshe Kahlon welcomes Rachel Azaria to Koolanu.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Rachel Azaria, No. 4 on Kulanu’s Knesset candidates list, said the party will support efforts to bring about civil unions as an alternative to marriage through the rabbinate and also will back increased funding for the Reform and Conservative movements.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post this week, Azaria, who currently serves as a member of the Jerusalem Municipal Council, sketched a broadly centrist and pluralistic stance for Kulanu on religion and state issues but emphasized that progress on them could require societal change before legislation is possible.
“Haredim say they want to preserve the Orthodox outlook from A to Z and the secular hardcore say they just want freedom without any outside religious intervention in their lives, which aren’t really positions that are true for the majority of Israeli society,” she said.
Because of the complex nature of some of the more divisive issues in Israeli society, she said Kulanu would choose to legislate on those where concrete gains can be made.
“Thing were done in the last government because it had a particular make-up [without haredi] parties, but these things can be undone by a new coalition agreement, so we need something substantive and sustainable for the long term.”
On the issue of an alternative to religious marriage through the Chief Rabbinate, Azaria said it was an area where legislation could be effective and that Kulanu was in favor of such proposals.
“We need to find a solution for people who can’t marry in Israel,” the prospective MK said, adding that Kulanu favored a civil-union type solution that would allow same-sex couples, non-Jewish Israeli citizens who are without religious classification who cannot marry in Israel and those who would choose not to marry with the rabbinate to enter into a civil-union agreement.
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Azaria also indicated that the party would help the country’s non-Orthodox Jewish denominations in their efforts to obtain increased state funding for their institutions and religious leaders.
“The way to address this issue is not by banging your head against the wall and battling the religious establishment and the haredim by insisting that funding come from the Religious Services Ministry,” she said. “Instead, funding can be secured through other ministries.
I don’t love this method, but on this issue it is better to be practical instead of sticking rigidly to principles. In the end, the people will determine what kind of Judaism they want here.”
Another major issue that will be raised during coalition negotiations is the law for haredi conscription forced through by Yesh Atid in the last Knesset term but which was fiercely criticized not only by the haredi parties but experts on haredi society and lobbying groups for draft equality, as well.
Azaria noted that she also criticized the law when it was in the legislative process, saying it had been a mistake to insist on the criminal sanctions clause in the new law, which subjects haredi men – like all other Jewish men of military age – to a possible two-year prison sentence for refusing to perform military duty.
“The haredim change by changing without admitting they change, that’s their psychology.
If you try and force them to change it has the opposite effect. The law that was passed is a ‘Tel Aviv’ law, made by people who don’t understand haredim. It was a mistake,” she said, adding that Kulanu would not oppose removing the criminal-sanctions clause.
Lapid himself, she noted, recently stepped away from his flagship legislation, when he claimed in an interview with Ma’ariv that it had been the attorney-general who insisted on criminal sanctions instead of economic sanctions. Azaria called such claims “nonsense,” as did earlier this week Bayit Yehudi MK Ayelet Shaked, who chaired the committee that reviewed the legislation in Knesset.
High on Azaria’s priorities, should she be elected to the Knesset, she said will be dealing with the issue of “chained women” – those whose husbands refuse to grant them a divorce and thereby preventing them from remarrying – although the phenomenon also occurs in reverse with women refusing to accept a divorce.
Azaria said greater inspection and oversight of the rabbinical- courts system would increase the incidence of rabbinical courts imposing the penalties and sanctions available to them by law to compel the granting of the divorce.
“As legislators, we need to make sure that we leave the country in a better state than we found it at the beginning of the Knesset term,” she said.
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