Friedmann defends haredi dayanim

Says election of haredi dayanim to 12 of 15 vacant posts on the rabbinical courts is in keeping with the growing haredi population.

Daniel Friedmann 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Daniel Friedmann 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann on Thursday defended the election of haredi dayanim to 12 of 15 vacant posts on the rabbinical courts as being in proportion to the existing numbers and in keeping with the growing haredi population. Two religious Zionist groups have already petitioned the High Court of Justice against the elections, saying they had been determined by political considerations and fixed in advance by the haredi parties. "There has been a long and developing process," Friedmann said at Bar-Ilan University's Business Forum. "There is an increase in the haredi population and it is an enormous one that is not paralleled by the growth in the religious Zionist community. This has its impact on the committee that appoints the dayanim." Before last week's election, 83 percent of all the dayanim were haredim and 17% belonged to the religious Zionist community, he said. Thus, the ratio of 12 new haredi dayanim and three new religious Zionist dayanim was in keeping with the status quo. Friedmann also rejected the religious Zionists' claim that their rabbis were better attuned to the needs of society and more flexible in their interpretation of Halacha, enabling them to solve problems such as divorce for women. Even though the religious Zionists had been in control of the religious courts for many years, he said, "the dayanim did not, in general, find halachic solutions to the vexing problems. Religious Zionism did not stand out as being in the vanguard of changes in religious law at any stage. "Even today, I have no information leading me to believe that the religious Zionist dayanim are more helpful. We haven't seen in religious Zionism any tendency whatsoever to make things easier or to reform Halacha that would change the situation," Friedmann said. MK Nissim Slomiansky (National Union Party-NRP), who was a member of the Dayanim Election Committee and walked out before the vote when he saw that he could not persuade the haredi members to change their minds, told The Jerusalem Post Friedmann's comments were "astonishing for their lack of understanding and knowledge." He said the reason there have been so many haredi dayanim, even though the National Religious Party was in control of the elections during the first decades of the state, was because there were almost no yeshiva-trained, well-versed rabbis in the religious Zionist world. Therefore, the religious Zionists had no choice but to elect haredim as dayanim. Today this was no longer true, Slomiansky said. It took time, but today there was a "gigantic" religious Zionist "Torah world," which had spawned many outstanding rabbis. Of the 160 rabbis in Israel who have the accreditation to be dayanim, at least 50 were religious Zionists, he said. Slomiansky also slammed Friedmann for accepting the status quo in the religious courts, while working to change the alleged imbalance among the justices of the Supreme Court in favor of the school of thought of its former president, Aharon Barak. Slomiansky said the religious Zionist rabbis were connected to Israeli society and understood and cared about the needs of the secular community. Therefore, he said, they represented not only religious Zionists but also the secular community, whereas the haredi rabbis represented only their own community. Slomiansky also said that unlike haredi dayanim, rabbis educated in the religious Zionist system knew how to conduct themselves properly, were punctual and were forthcoming in providing for the needs of those who come before rabbinical courts, within the framework of Halacha but without the rigid approach of the haredim.