A mikve, the Jewish ritual bath [Illustrative].
(photo credit: CHABAD.ORG)
The proposed mikvaot to be built for the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel, a requirement of the new “mikve law” banning their converts from public mikvaot, will in all likelihood not be built before the law comes into effect.
The so-called mikva law was passed in July at the behest of United Torah Judaism to legally prevent the Reform and Conservative movements using public mikvaot for their conversions, and is set to come into effect in April 2017.
It generated outrage among progressive Jewish leaders in Israel and the US, as well as the broader leadership of US Jewry, who described the law as a stain The legislation was a response to a High Court of Justice decision in February which ruled that preventing the progressive Jewish denominations from using public mikvaot was discriminatory and illegal.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit publicly opposed UTJ’s law circumventing the High Court, only relenting when it was agreed that the state would pay for the construction of four mikvaot for Reform and Conservative use, a solution which the liberal streams reluctantly accepted.
Without provision for the progressive movements, Mandelblit said he would not defend the law from petitions filed against it to the High Court.
The Prime Minister’s Office stated it would transfer the funds, some NIS 10 million, to the Jewish Agency, which would then arrange for the construction of the mikvaot.
It was also agreed that the legislation would not come into force until nine months after it was passed, to allow time for the mikvaot to be built.
The Jerusalem Post has learned, however, that the funds have yet to be transferred by the Prime Minister’s Office to the Jewish Agency, and that only the most basic preparatory work has begun for the construction of the mikvaot.
Only in the last few weeks did officials from the Jewish Agency’s property subsidiary Amigour begin to physically inspect the proposed sites for the mikvaot. Requests for building permits that might be required have not yet been submitted to the relevant municipal authorities, much less approved.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of the Reform Movement in Israel, said that “a miracle similar to that of Hanukka” would be required for the mikvaot to be built on time, and that the non-Orthodox movements would demand from the Justice Ministry that the law not come into effect until such time as they are completed.
Attorney Yitzhar Hess, director of the Masorti Movement in Israel, said that the timeline of the law, “which should never have been legislated in the first place,” had always been unrealistic.
“No one should have any doubt, we will not hesitate to petition the High Court so that this disgraceful law does not come into effect until the mikvaot that were promised are standing ready and fit for use,” said Hess.
The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to questions regarding the reason for the delays, when the funds would be transferred to the Jewish Agency and if it was still possible to build the mikvaot before the law comes into effect.