Shas party MK Yaakov Margi handed the Ministry for Religious Services over to Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party chairman Naftali Bennett in a ceremony Tuesday. Bennett will serve as minister, and MK Eli Ben-Dahan (Bayit Yehudi), an ordained rabbi, will serve as deputy minister.
The transfer represents a victory for Bayit Yehudi, which has been publicly at odds with Shas since before the elections over the ties between religion and the state in Israel. Bayit Yehudi openly seeks change to the Rabbinate, which it says has become irrelevant to most Israelis.
Bennett welcomed his new role. “This is a great opportunity to sanctify G-d’s name and to make Judaism accessible to every citizen of Israel,” he declared.
“We promised to restore the Jewish spirit to the nation of Israel, and that is what we’re doing,” Bennett said. “We see this ministry as holy.”
“We will not serve citizens based on the size of their kippah [yarmulke],” he added. “We will serve the entire nation.”
Ben-Dahan expressed similar sentiments. “Religious Services belong to everyone, to religious and irreligious together,” he said. “We are here to bring the Religious Services forward and to make them accessible to the entire Israeli public.”
Outgoing minister Margi told the two, “We got a hardworking ministry, and now you must continue that reputation.” Margi noted that his grandmother and MK Ben-Dahan’s grandmother were sisters, and joked, “This ministry is still staying in the family.”