A mikve, the Jewish ritual bath [Illustrative].
(photo credit: CHABAD.ORG)
United Torah Judaism MK Menachem Eliezer Moses said on Monday that his party is demanding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu advance UTJ’s controversial law on public access to mikvaot (ritual baths) despite the attorney-general’s opposition to the bill.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Moses said that Netanyahu is obliged to advance the bill because of the coalition agreement between UTJ and Likud. Moses added that pressure from non-Orthodox Jewish denominations in the Diaspora over the mikve issue is undemocratic.
“The attorney-general isn’t obligated to us in anyway. The person who is obligated to us is the prime minister through the coalition agreement, in which he undertook that there be no changes to the status quo on religion and state,” said the MK.
“The High Court decision is a dramatic change which would allow these clowns and Reform rabbis to use mikvaot. We won’t allow it.”
In February, the Supreme Court ruled that the ban by local religious councils on Reform and Conservative use of mikvaot for converts was discriminatory and illegal.
In response, UTJ MK Moshe Gafni introduced a bill to ban non-Orthodox denominations from using public mikvaot.
“Just like pretend doctors wouldn’t be allowed to treat patients in Tel Hashomer Hospital, pretend rabbis can’t use mikvaot,” Moses said.
The MK alleged that non-Orthodox Jews in the Diaspora exert undue influence in Israel due to their financial wealth, and that it is undemocratic for those living in the Diaspora to interfere in Israel.
“The prime minister made a coalition deal with us, not with the Reform. We have the mandates here. Together with Shas, we are 13 Knesset seats.
How many mandates do they have here? They had one candidate on a party list, and he didn’t get in,” he continued referring to Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the Reform Movement in Israel, who was placed 32 on Zionist Union’s electoral list for the 2015 elections but did not enter the Knesset.
“It’s very simple. If they want to influence things here, they should come. They should vote. They should draw voters to them and get into the Knesset.
To come and block our votes, and to make the government go in this direction, how is this possible? “Here in Israel, whoever votes influences. But you can’t influence just because you’ve got money but you live in LA, or Chicago, or wherever, and dictate to us what to do here, just because they have money.”
The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to Moses’s claims.
Kariv condemned Moses’s comments, saying that he showed “embarrassing ignorance of everything connected to democracy.” He added the majority of Israelis supports liberalizing religious services.
“MK Moses forgets that human rights and religious freedom are a vital component in every normal democracy,” said Kariv. “With all due respect to the 13 mandates of the haredim, the overwhelming majority of the Israeli public is not willing to accept the religious and cultural coercion of hatred and division.”
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni blasted the UTJ’s proposed mikve legislation, saying it distances Israel from Diaspora Jewry.
Finance Minister and Kulanu chairman MK Moshe Kahlon said he supports the attorney-general’s position, explaining that it would preserve rather than alter the religion-and-state status quo.
“The original wording of the bill contradicts the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom, and harms the dignity and freedom of women,” he said, adding that Kulanu would continue to protect the religious status quo for secular, traditional and religious-Zionist communities.”
“The mikve bill is not only illegal, it is also immoral,” said Livni in the party’s Knesset faction meeting on Monday.
“Steps like this and the zigzag over the Western Wall agreement distance the Jewish state from the Jewish people around the world. At a time of boycotts against Israel, we need those Diaspora Jews more than ever.”
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