Religious Zionists petition against new dayanim

Petitions charge that the election was dictated by political considerations and the procedures were tainted by discrimination.

high court 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
high court 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Two religious Zionist organizations on Tuesday petitioned the High Court of Justice against the election of 15 dayanim to the religious courts last week, demanding that the elections be cancelled. The Israel Bar announced on Tuesday that it intended to petition against the election. The petitioners include Emunah, represented by attorney Pinhas Maoz, and Tzohar, an organization of modern orthodox rabbis and educators, represented by attorneys Aviad Cohen and Yishayahu Avraham. They charged that the election was dictated by political considerations and the procedures were tainted by discrimination, gross violations of the basic right to equality, the right to elect and be elected and many other improprieties. According to the petitions, the election of the 15 dayanim- religious court judges- was the outcome of a "deal" agreed upon by Shas and the United Torah Judaism Party. The two haredi parties agreed in advance on the number of dayanim connected to each party that would be elected and their identities. Cohen and Avraham wrote that according to a report in the Shas newspaper Yom L'Yom, Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann had promised Prime Minister Ehud Olmert he would implement the coalition agreement between Shas and Kadima guaranteed the election of haredi dayanim. Several rabbis belonging to the Tzohar movement were candidates for religious court positions. At least 12 of the 15 new dayanim were haredim. According to the Emunah petition, the members of the Dayanim Elections Committee were not given the protocols of the subcommittees which interviewed and graded the candidates. When the head of the committee, Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar began to read out the names of the candidates and his opinion of each, committee members interrupted him and said there was no need for that. According to the petition, some members of the committee had only recently been appointed and were unfamiliar with the candidates. Furthermore, the committee was not told to which courts the new dayanim would be assigned. The religious courts have sole jurisdiction over marriage and divorce in Israel. According to the national religious movement, haredi rabbis are more rigid in their interpretation of religious law than national religious rabbis. The interpretive approach of the dayanim is particularly important when it comes to such issues as granting divorces to women. Tzohar was established after the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 to bring the secular and orthodox communities closer in those areas which did not compromise the religious beliefs of the Tzohar rabbis. Being more flexible in divorce matters was considered one way of defusing the tensions between the two communities. According to the Tzohar rabbis, the election of haredi dayanim will only make it harder to bridge the gaps.