No Religious Council in Beit El - Who's to Blame?

Beit El residents threaten to file petition in High Court for Justice over oversight; ministers play blame game, point to Finance Ministry.

Uzi Baruch ,

Beit El (file)
Beit El (file)
Oren Nahshon/Flash90

Beit El's local regional council recently sent a letter to the Ministry of Religious Services for refusing to establish a religious council in Beit El as required by law, Arutz Sheva has learned Monday.

The council's legal advisor wrote in his letter to the Minister of Religious Affairs, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, and to former Finance Minister Yair Lapid, over the issue - noting that he intends to file a petition to the High Court for Justice against them if the state continues to refuse to establish a religious council for the community. 

The letter stated that in accordance with the Jewish religious services ordinance of 1971, the Minister for Religious Services is responsible for establishing any local Religious Council for a community which lacks religious leadership.

The law stipulates that religious council is a body established under law and serves the role of Jewish religious service provider for residents of the local area under the Regional Council.

"[Beit El] is a religious community with a national-religious character," the letter states. "This is a situation whereby the village is capable of providing, for the reasons listed above, normal religious services."

"In practice, however, a resident of the settlement of Beit El who applies for municipal religious services is discriminated against being provided to these services that any other resident in the area can receive," the letter continued, blasting the government for lack of funding both to religious councils and to Judea-Samaria as a whole.

The letter notes that the Beit El Regional Council, which numbers about 6,500 people, has turned to the Ministry for Religious Affairs several times, requesting that Bennett use the power vested in him by Israeli law to establish a religious council in the community.

Bennett responded that in light of budget cuts, he does still intend to establish a religious council in Beit El, only through a combination of the Beit El Regional Council with the nearby Binyamin Regional Council.

Beit El's municipal council had accepted these terms, only to find that their application for a religious council was rejected - again. 

The Finance Ministry, meanwhile, has said in response to a letter that the issue is the process of discussions between the ministries.

"As for the questions raised, it is imperative that religious services will be provided through a religious council," it added. 

The petitioners have responded by citing the case of Modi'in Illit (Kiryat Sefer), where there is no dispute about the nature of its inhabitants (it is a hareidi city - ed.), and which provides religious services without a municipal religious council.

In addition, there are now in the country about 130 religious councils, many of which are still operating under recovery plans due to poor governance over the years.

These councils also exist in small communities surrounding major towns, which hold religious council functions. 

The office of Deputy Minister for Religious Affairs, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, responded that the Finance Ministry is to blame.

"The Religious Services Ministry acted in accordance with the relevant factors, and has particularly turned several times to the Ministry of Finance to ask to establish a religious council in Beit El and the Finance Ministry did not respond," the response said.

"As there is no source of funding for the establishment of a religious council, the Minister is unable to exercise its authority and to establish a religious council." 



top