Tzipi Hotovely visits Temple Mount.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The coalition agreement signed between the Likud and United Torah Judaism and the forthcoming deal with Shas continue to generate disquiet within the national-religious sector, with politicians and organizations weighing in on the issue on Sunday.
Shas is certain to receive the Religious Services portfolio which has been in the hands of Bayit Yehudi for the last two years, and is also refusing a compromise proposal to grant the party a deputy minister in the ministry.
During a media blitz on Sunday, Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely, from the national-religious sector, said that she is disturbed that the ministry would be controlled by a non-Zionist party.
“I am saddened that the Religious Services Ministry will not be in Zionist hands. I’ve already been saying that this is a missed opportunity,” she said on Army Radio. She also noted that the haredi community makes much less use of the services provided by the ministry, the Chief Rabbinate and the local religious authorities than the national religious and even the secular community.
Members of the haredi public often rely on kashrut certification other than that provided by the state rabbinates, are likely to register for marriage with an intermediary official and not in a local rabbinate, while the haredi community at large does not generally accept the validity of conversions conducted through the state conversion system and rabbinical courts of conversion.
“It’s not a secret that the main customers who come to the rabbinate are the general Israeli public. Haredi Jewry relies on mehadrin kashrut certification and generally doesn’t rely on the Chief Rabbinate, meaning that it’s not right that the rabbinate is run by [the public representatives of] those who don’t use the rabbinate’s services,” Hotovely told the haredi radio station Kol Barama.
She said that there should be a “Zionist fingerprint” involved in the running of religious administration in the country.
Along with Hotovely, Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein, a member of the national-religious Tzohar rabbinical association’s board of management, also warned haredi political leaders to be careful of the way they deal with the Jewish character of the state, once they are back in political control of its reins, as now seems likely.
“[The historical] Agudat Yisrael [movement], which was founded as an alternative to the Zionist movement in the early 20th century and effectively separated from it against a background of questions over Jewish identity, cannot deal with these issues only through its political strength,” said Feuerstein.
He said that this disconnect had led to mistrust by Israeli youth toward the haredi community and its rabbis and warned that the haredi leadership should prevent a deepening of that mistrust by restraining itself from what he said would be damaging political steps.
The rabbi referred in particular to the hard won “Tzohar law,” passed in 2013, which abolished marriage registration districts and guaranteed the security of Tzohar’s popular marriage registration service, seen by the Chief Rabbinate as a competitor to the state-provided service.
The Chief Rabbinate, led by the haredi chief rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef, have refused to abide by the law, despite its widespread implementation, and United Torah Judaism and Shas have sought to repeal the law through coalition agreements with the Likud.
This was apparently resisted by the Likud, although the UTJ-Likud agreement does address the law, stating that marriage registration can be done only in the offices of a local rabbinate or religious council, but without mentioning any legislative steps that would be taken to enforce this.
Feuerstein said that this stipulation could endanger its on-campus marriage registration service designed for students who often face difficulties in taking time out of their study and lecture schedules to visit local rabbinates, which are generally not open at convenient times later in the evening.
“Canceling or restricting the ‘Tzohar law’ would cause masses of Israelis to consider whether to marry in accordance with Jewish law or to wed through civil marriage [abroad] and would be an unparalleled desecration of God’s name,” Feuerstein said.
Tzohar conducts some 3,000 weddings a year and has overseen 70,000 since its wedding service began.
“Take your hands away from what you don’t understand. Be careful about causing the desecration of God’s name that is bound up with rabbinical appointments that are not commensurate with the soul of the nation,” the rabbi warned.