Ariel won’t run for post of Ashkenazi chief rabbi

79-year-old president of the national-religious rabbinical association Tzohar concedes that his age rules him out for the post.

Rabbi Ya'acov Ariel 370 (photo credit: Wikipedia)
Rabbi Ya'acov Ariel 370
(photo credit: Wikipedia)
Following almost three weeks of speculation and back-room negotiations, it has emerged that Rabbi Ya’acov Ariel, a prospective candidate for Ashkenazi chief rabbi, will not be running for the position.
In a video of Ariel, 76, speaking at a recent conference that was closed to the media, the rabbi conceded that his age ruled him out for the post.
The law prohibits candidates over 70 from running for the Chief Rabbinate.
“The idea [of running for chief rabbi] is appropriate, [but] if I ask myself... it’s over, I’ve passed the age... [but] it’s okay that an old man [should] retire,” he said in the video clip, originally released by Ynet.
A spokesman for the rabbi confirmed to The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that “as it stands,” Ariel – who is chief rabbi of Ramat Gan and president of the national-religious rabbinical association Tzohar – would not be running.
For him to do so, the government would have had to change the law, and coalition parties Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beytenu and Hatnua explicitly ruled out enacting such legislation, since they had all publicly endorsed Tzohar chairman Rabbi David Stav for the position. They also expressed opposition to legislation designed for the benefit of a particular individual.
Earlier in April, Stav informed Tzohar rabbis that the organization had tried several months ago to promote Ariel as a candidate and had contacted heads of the political parties about the possibility of passing such a law.
As the Post reported two weeks ago, Stav wrote in his letter that it was already apparent that the legislation would be impossible to pass and that Ariel had accepted this fact.
Senior national-religious leader Rabbi Haim Druckman had been working with Bayit Yehudi and Deputy Minister for Religious Services Eli Ben- Dahan to seal an agreement with Shas in which Bayit Yehudi would help pass legislation to allow current Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to stand for a second term in return for Shas support in the electoral committee for the Bayit Yehudi candidate.
Senior rabbinical figures in the national-religious world, especially those in the more conservative wing of the movement, oppose Stav for being too liberal in his stance on various religious issues.
It is likely that pressure from these figures led the Bayit Yehudi political leadership to examine the possibility of running Ariel as the national-religious candidate for Ashkenazi chief rabbi.
It is unclear whether the party will now support Stav or seek another candidate. Before Ariel’s name was mentioned, two other national-religious candidates were touted as possible contenders: Rabbi Ya’acov Shapira, dean of the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, and Rabbi Eliezer Igra, a rabbinical judge on the Supreme Rabbinical Court.
Both Shapira and Igra are on the conservative end of the national religious movement and would be more acceptable to the more right-wing rabbinic leadership.