13 women appointed to 150-member Chief Rabbinate Council election c’tee

Bayit Yehudi MK Betzalel Smotrich called on the prime minister to halt the process of appointing the 150-person committee because representatives from Judea and Samaria are not permitted to serve.

August 12, 2018 22:12
2 minute read.
Council of the Chief Rabbinate

The rabbis of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate. (photo credit: CHIEF RABBINATE)


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Religious Services Minster David Azoulai nominated 10 women to serve on the electoral committee for the Council of the Chief Rabbinate today, following legal pressure and a ruling of the deputy attorney general.

Two female MKs – Shuli Muallem-Refaeli and Aliza Lavie – together with Culture and Education Minister Miri Regev, were also appointed to the body.

At the same time, Bayit Yehudi MK Betzalel Smotrich called on the prime minister to halt the process of appointing the 150-person committee because representatives from Judea and Samaria are not permitted by law to serve on it.

But it emerged on Sunday that a law proposed in 2013 by Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern to give women fair representation on the committee – which would have also allowed Judea and Samaria representatives to serve as well – was blocked at the time by Bayit Yehudi.

Elections for 10 members of the 17-man Chief Rabbinate Council – which is the decision-making body of the Chief Rabbinate – are slated for September 3, but have faced several legal challenges.

The appointments to the committee on Sunday by Azoulai were made following a legal petition by the Ne’emanei Torah VaAvodah (Torah and work faithful) organization together with the Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women, arguing that at least 80 of the 150 seats on the electoral committee are de facto reserved for men since 80 positions are reserved for rabbis ordained by the chief rabbinate, which only ordains men.

The religious services minister is empowered to nominate 10 representatives to the committee; the deputy attorney-general ordered him in June to appoint 10 women to ensure a bare minimum of women on it.

Ne’emanei Torah VaAvodah welcomed Azoulai’s appointments, and called for broader representation “for all sectors of Israeli society” on the electoral committee.

“The situation in which women do not serve in the rabbinate but are greatly impacted by its decisions requires that they are represented on the electoral committee for the Chief Rabbinate Council,” said Tani Frank, head of Ne’emanei Torah VaAvodah’s Religion and State department.

On Saturday night, Smotrich wrote to the prime minister and called on him to postpone the appointment of the religious services minister’s appointees, and those of the chief rabbinate, in order to give time to ensure that measures are taken to allow representatives from Judea and Samaria to be included.

The Justice Ministry is of the opinion that the law as it stands does not allow representation on the electoral committee from beyond the green line.

Smotrich and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) have been strongly critical of this situation, arguing that residents of Judea and Samaria are equal citizens of Israel who are affected by decisions of the Chief Rabbinate and deserve representation on the committee.

Despite Smotrich’s protestations, the appointments were nevertheless made on Sunday.

Stern pointed out that in 2013, when he was trying to greatly increase representation for women on the electoral committee, he had come to an agreement with Bayit Yehudi MK Eli Ben-Dahan whereby at least 32 and as many as 50 women would be guaranteed a spot on the body, while representatives from Judea and Samaria would also be guaranteed seats.

“Those who torpedoed the proposal were these exact same two people: Ariel appealed the draft bill, and Smotrich applied pressure from the outside – and in the end, Ayelet Shaked vetoed it,” lamented Stern.

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