Daily Israel Report
Show More

OpEds


Jerusalem Mayor Calls for New Chief Rabbis, Rejects Partition

Nir Barkat says the capital needs its own Sephardic, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbis; positions should be split between hareidi, religious-Zionist.
By Ari Soffer and Yoni Kempinski
First Publish: 2/3/2014, 11:22 AM

Mayor Nir Barkat
Mayor Nir Barkat
Flash 90

The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, has called for the revival of the positions of Ashkenazic and Sephardic Chief Rabbinate positions in the capital city.

Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Barkat noted that unlike many other cities around the country Jerusalem has not had a Chief Rabbi for the last ten years - a situation he wants to change.

"We need to appoint rabbis for the city of Jerusalem," he explained. "Their role is to bring honor, respect, promote the religion in the city... to speak to all constituencies, all tribes: religious, secular, Ultra-Orthodox (hareidi)."

To that end, Barkat reiterated his position that the two positions should be split between the religious-Zionist and hareidi camps, to grant them the widest possible appeal in a city with a large hareidi minority.

The issue is one Barkat has been actively pushing in the past few days, with reports swirling that he is considering nominating the current Chief Rabbi of the northern Israeli city of Tzfat, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, for the post of Sephardic Chief Rabbi.

The mayor was speaking at Arutz Sheva's eleventh annual Jerusalem Conference.

Rabbi Eliyahu is the son of former Sephardic Israeli Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, and rumors of his candidacy have met with angry opposition by left-wing groups, who object to statements he has made in the past about Arab attempts to "Islamize" Israel. 

Barkat also responded to recent reports that US Secretary of State John Kerry's proposal for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority would see the city of Jerusalem split in half, with the eastern portion serving as the capital of a "Palestinian state". He said he saw it as his personal mission "to dismiss any thought of dividing the city of Jerusalem."