(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The High Court of Justice voided the election of a chief municipal rabbi for Mevaseret Zion due to electoral irregularities, although it has allowed the rabbi who won the now invalidated poll to run again.
Repeat elections will now likely take place in one to two months, although it appears that almost all the members on the 16-member electoral committee will retain their seats, meaning the outcome could well be the same.
The petition against the election was filed by a broad cross section of Mevaseret residents who protested against corruption in the election process, while many – including the mayor himself – have insisted that the city has no need for a municipal chief rabbi, especially one who will cost the city NIS 400,000 in salaries alone every year.
Rabbi Shlomo Ben-Ezra – who received a blessing from the late, revered Shas spiritual leader rabbi Ovadia Yosef – was elected chief municipal rabbi of Mevaseret in January, but was prevented from taking up his post by a temporary injunction issued in line with the demands of the petition.
The legal suit alleged that then Religious Services minister David Azoulay of Shas and his ministry acted in violation of electoral procedures to stack the five-member electoral committee and the 16-member election committee with their allies in order to control the election outcome.
The electoral committee has several central roles in the election process, including the critical task of selecting the synagogues that send delegates to the 16-member election committee that votes in the election.
It emerged that the chairman of the five-member electoral committee who was selected by the religious services minister for Mevaseret was used by the ministry to serve as chairman of numerous electoral committees in different cities, despite having no connection to them.
In addition, two of the five members of the committee who were supposed to be selected by the municipal council were instead selected by Azoulay.
Despite these and other objections, the electoral committee convened and, of the four synagogues selected to send delegates to the election commission, all of them were haredi (ultra-Orthodox) – three Sephardi congregations and one Ashkenazi – despite the fact that the national-religious community in Mevaseret is at least as big, if not bigger, than the haredi community.
Although the High Court decided on Monday to void the election, it has required only one member of the 16-member electoral committee to step down, due to his association with Ben-Ezra.
And Ben-Ezra himself will be allowed to run again.
The rabbi originally sought the position in 1999, but his candidacy was struck down by the High Court at the time due to conflict of interest concerns.
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