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Otniel Schneller 311.(Photo by: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Eight haredi, four Zionist rabbinical judges chosen
Rabbi Shlomo Dichovsky to head rabbinical courts for three more months as panel fails to reach agreement on successor to Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan.
The Committee for Appointing Rabbinical Judges appointed 12 new rabbinical judges on Friday, who will serve in the regional rabbinic courts.

The committee also extended the tenure of temporary head of the rabbinical courts Rabbi Shlomo Dichovsky by another three months, after failing to agree on who will replace Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, who was forced to step down in June after 20 years.

All the 12 were unanimously approved, four of them national-religious, four haredi Sephardi, and four haredi Ashkenazi, which can be considered equal representation to the three central streams of orthodox Judaism. This can be accredited to the lengthy efforts of committee member MK Othniel Schneller (Kadima), who went to great lengths to ensure this balance in a committee in which six of the 10 members are haredi.

“The intelligence of Justice Minister and chairman of the committee Yaakov Neeman and the wisdom of the rabbis led to the choice of an excellent team of rabbinical judges,” he said on Friday.

“As a [member of the national religious sector], I am proud that we could join forces together with the haredi approaches to present a united Judaism to the public.”

Other national religious bodies were less satisfied by Friday’s outcome.

“We laud the choice of the new rabbinical judges who are national religious and in the [nonstringent] spirit of Beit Hillel,” spokesman for the liberal modern-Orthodox Ne’emanei Torah Ve’avodah (The Faithful of Torah and Labor) group Benny Doron said. “At the same time, however, we are distressed that only [four] of the new appointees are not haredi. The haredim currently compose an overwhelming majority in the rabbinical courts, and the state should act to balance the system, otherwise we’ll never see changes in the courts’ conduct.”

Doron called to increase the numbers of Zionist rabbinic judges in the courts and appoint as head of the system “a Zionist with the appropriate skills, who is attuned to all of Israeli society.”

Attorney Batya Kahana-Dror, director of the Mavoi Satum (“Dead End”) organization, which works for the rights of women who have been refused divorce and are therefore unable to remarry according to Jewish law (agunot), said that “yet again the committee preferred the political and sectorial interests of the haredi sector to the detriment of the wider public. The appointment of haredi rabbinical judges, who are entirely under the control of haredi Lithuanian rabbis, is a disaster for the State of Israel and its women.

“We would have expected Neeman to maintain the public interest so that at least half of the appointees would have been rabbinical judges who served in the IDF... We are considering appealing to the State Attorney and the High Court of Justice, to have these appointments immediately called off,” Kahana-Dror said.

The debate over the new head of the courts is still under way, with Neeman apparently objecting to the appointment of Rabbi Ya’acov Attias, the brother of Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias (Shas), whose candidacy is supported by Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar, also a member of the committee who like the justice minister has the power to veto an appointment.
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