Ravitz quits after 20 years as MK

MK Avraham Ravitz (United Torah Judaism) announced on Thursday he was quitting politics after 20 years in the Knesset. Ravitz, who had been considering the move for some time, first informed Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the most revered halachic authority among Lithuanian haredi Jewry, and also Lithuanian Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman, who heads a division of the Ponevezh Yeshiva. Nonetheless, Ravitz, 74, will continue to chair the Degel Hatorah movement that represents the Lithuanian-haredi public. Both Elyashiv and Shteinman accepted Ravitz's decision and gave him their blessings. Ravitz's decision to quit seems set to deepen the turmoil in the haredi political system in general and Degel Hatorah specifically. That turmoil peaked in the recent Jerusalem mayoral elections, when haredi voters spilt regarding support of MK Meir Porush, who did not receive leading rabbis' specific backing. United Torah Judaism, which is comprised of Degel Hatorah and Agudat Yisrael, was also divided over Foreign Minister and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni's invitation to join her in a new coalition last month, ultimately rejecting her invitation and dooming her effort. Currently there are fears that UTJ might split into two parties. Ravitz was almost convinced not to quit due to this fear. Ravitz served as deputy minister of construction and housing deputy education minister, deputy welfare and social services minister and chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee.