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Ministers Approve 'One Chief Rabbi' Bill

Bill submitted by MK Feiglin with Yesh Atid's Lipman and Lavie may be merged with government bill on the same matter.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 11/18/2013, 1:10 PM

PM Netanyahu and his wife meet Israeli Chief Rabbis
PM Netanyahu and his wife meet Israeli Chief Rabbis
Flash 90

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved Monday a bill presented by MKs Moshe Feiglin (Likud), Rabbi Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid) and Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), which would unite the two Chief Rabbi positions into one.

Bills that are approved by the Ministerial Committe for Legislation have a good chance of passing, since they are guaranteed Coalition support and hence are expected to enjoy a majority.

The bill's initiators said that the bill “carries a message of unity, and of ending the Diaspora existence, which involves separation. We hope that the decision will influence the next generation of rabbis, who will be attempt to be meaningful for everyone in Israel.”

"This is why I entered the Knesset,” said MK Feiglin. “It is time that we disconnected ourselves from the Diaspora, just as there is one president and one prime minister, it is time that there will be one chief rabbi.”

MK Lipman added: “The polarization starts at the top and filters down to the entire nation. This law is an important step toward the fulll and complete unification of the nation. I congratulate MK Feiglin and thank him for the opportunity given to me, to work with him on this important bill.”

Ministers Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) and Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) recently distributed a memorandum for a bill similar to Feiglin's. While MK Feiglin's bill preceded their initiative, the fact that they are ministers gives them added clout, and there was some fighting over who will get credit for the bill. It appears that in the end, MK Feiglin's bill will be united with the one presented by the two ministers, thus speeding up the process of its legislation.

There are currently two chief rabbis in Israel: one Sephardic and the other Ashkenazic. The distinction between the Sephardic and Ashkenazic streams in Judaism came into existence during the near-1,800-year period of exile between the quashing of the last Jewish rebellions against the Romans in the second century CE, and the large scale return of Jews to their homeland in the 19th and 20th centuries. 

Ashkenazic Jews were initially concentrated in the area of modern Germany and migrated eastward over the centuries, while Sephardic Jews lived under Islamic rule. They developed diverging customs and traditions, including some differences in prayer formulations.