Bill for one chief rabbi in Israel approved by Ministerial Committee for Legislation

Legislation would lead in ten years time to election of just one chief rabbi instead of two.

November 18, 2013 20:19
2 minute read.
A CHIEF RABBINATE employee gets ready for vote.

Chief Rabbinate elections 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)


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The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved on Monday a draft bill that would in 10 years’ time lead to the election of just one chief rabbi instead of two, as is currently the case.

To date, and even preceding the establishment of the state, an Ashkenazi chief rabbi and a Sephardi chief rabbi have been selected to serve as the country’s senior clerics.

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The advocates of the bill, proposed by MKs Aliza Lavie, Dov Lipman and Moshe Feiglin, argue that there is no longer any need for the chief rabbinical post to be divided along ethnic lines and that the single most fitting candidate, regardless of his heritage, should be chosen.

According to the bill, the chief rabbi would head the Council of the Chief Rabbinate, while a separate position, that of the president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, would be created who would serve automatically on the council.

Currently, the two chief rabbis take it in turns to fill these roles, filling them for five years each during their 10- year tenure.

The proposed law argues that “the separation of the Jewish people into different ethnic groupings was a result of the 2,000 years of exile,” and that since the nation has returned to its land, “our purpose is to unite the people and to return the Torah to its glory.

“The perpetuation of differences between the communities in the framework of governmental jobs... lags behind the developing reality. With this amendment to the law, we are enabling the rabbinical world to be partners in the revolution that the Jewish people who have returned from exile are undergoing, from a divided community to being one nation,” wrote the drafters of the bill.

“The time has come to advance the process of ‘returning to Zion’ not just on the level of state and society but also on a religious level.”

Lavie, Lipman and Feiglin welcomed the ministers’ approval of the bill, which will now be passed to the Knesset for its preliminary reading, saying it represented a departure from the burden of a divisive exile.

A government bill drawn up by Trade and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Deputy Religious Services Minister Rabbi Eli Ben- Dahan, along with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, has also been drafted and distributed to relevant government departments for their input.

It is not clear if that bill will be combined with the one the ministerial committee approved on Monday.

A source in United Torah Judaism said the haredi party was not in favor of the bill, arguing that the different communities still adhere to different traditions and interpretations of Jewish law and that rabbinical rulings still need to be made in accordance with this reality.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post last month, Ben-Dahan said, however, that he believed the Jewish people is ready for such a development.

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