Rabbi Ben Dahan (right) and NU head Uri Ariel
Rabbi Ben Dahan (right) and NU head Uri Ariel PR photo

Rabbi Eliyahu Ben-Dahan, who was chosen Sunday to the second spot on the National Union's Knesset list, told Arutz Sheva in an exclusive interview Monday that he intends to lead the fight for family values in the 19th Knesset.

Rabbi Ben-Dahan, who was the Director of the Rabbinical Courts for about 20 years, said that he has numerous ideas for legislation in the field of family values, and that children are his top priority. "As Director of the Rabbinical Courts, I was exposed to a very problematic reality in which couples fight each other at their children's expense," he explained.

"Let me give you an extreme example," he said. "It often happens that at the very minute at which the father is supposed to receive his child for his parenting time, the child 'happens' to have diarrhea and 'happens' not to have clean clothes to wear and the mother says she cannot hand him over. The father returns home, dejected, and cannot receive the child."

"I have a dream of establishing an authority for enforcement of parenting arrangements. We have nothing like that now. A court can decide, for instance, that the children must see their father on the Pesach Seder, but there is no body in the country that can make sure this happens. The idea is to establish a body that will not be unlike the authority that enforces collection of child support debt. Once a court decides what the parenting arrangements will be, the decision will be communicated to the authority and that it will make sure that they are enforced."

Rabbi Ben Dahan said that the use of false accusations of violence by one parent against another has become a very widespread phenomenon. "I may consider carrying out legislation that will stiffen punishment for whoever files a complaint that turns out to be false. The present reality is a terrible one. It is said that when a woman enters the office of a lawyer or rabbinical advocate, she is told – 'first of all, file a complaint that says your husband fooled around with the girls. Now he will be distanced from the home for three months, and he will be neutralized.' This is widespread."

The rabbi said he is in favor of the idea of replacing the Knesset's current Committee for Advancement of Women and Committee for Children's Rights with a unified Committee for the Family. "Family values must receive a place of honor," he explained. "The most basic component of any nation is the family unit. I will do everything possible to assist in promoting this cause and I will strive to be its leader."

Rabbi Ben Dahan said he is aware that he will have to deal with disinformation spread by "feminist" groups. As Director of the Rabbinical Courts, he ordered a survey that found that the total number of men who refused to grant their wives a "get", or divorce decree, was 180, while the number of women who refused to accept the get from their husbands was 190. These numbers flew in the face of the persistent claims by women's groups and "feminist" MKs that there were 100,000 male get refusers in Israel – a number similar to that of the total number of men who had divorced in the past decade.

"Because I know the statistics well, it will be difficult to fool me," he predicted.

Rabbi Ben Dahan said that he favors the cancellation of the Tender Years Clause, which presently grants mothers automatic custody over children of divorce. A committee appointed by the Justice Minister has made a similar recommendation, he noted, and the minister has since approved the recommendations. Once they are signed into law, he said, they will have to be obeyed.

The Rabbinical Courts have a bad image in the Israeli public, Ben Dahan said, and "much of this is due to the activity of women's organizations." In fact, he claimed, a government study found that the Rabbinical Courts provided the public with better service, overall, and that there were 50% less complaints against them than against the Family Courts.

While Rabbi Ben Dahan's plans may herald an era of greater conservatism in the Knesset, it should be noted that the new NU list actualy displays a new openness. For the first time in its history, the National Union's new Knesset list includes a woman --- Director of the Human Rights in Yesha NGO, Orit Strook. For a party with a core leadership that is almost hareidi in its character, this is no small revolution.