New Chief Rabbis in the President's Residence
New Chief Rabbis in the President's Residence Israel news photo: Flash 90

President Shimon Peres welcomed the incoming Chief Rabbis of Israel – Rabbi David Lau and Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef – in a ceremony Wednesday morning at the President’s Residence. The two new Chief Rabbis were officially sworn in to their new positions.

The two rabbis will jointly lead the Rabbinate, which is in charge of marriage, divorce, burials and other life cycle events for Israeli Jews.

The outgoing Chief Rabbis of Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Rabbi Yona Metzger, were notably absent. Chief Rabbinate secretary Oded Weiner said that the two had not been invited.

Weiner did not give a reason for the lack of an invite. Other sources in the Chief Rabbinate accused Peres of rudely snubbing the outgoing rabbis.

“It’s a shame that tensions and disagreements between senior rabbis led to this insensitivity toward Rabbi Metzger and Rabbi Amar,” they said.

Other senior officials were invited to the ceremony, among them Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs Eli Ben-Dahan.

Peres warmly welcomed the two incoming rabbis, and wished them well in their new roles. “The nation of Israel needs you, perhaps more than ever,” he told them. “The nation thirsts for the kind face of Jewish tradition.”

“The people of Israel raise their eyes to you, to be reminded of what lies within them, in their past and future. The nation prays for a respected, esteemed Rabbinate that will bring back the spirit of greatness, and eternal values, to daily life,” he continued.

“Know how to bring people closer, how to respect differences, and how to hold the Ten Commandments up high,” he told them.

He added, “You have the great privilege of bringing together brothers who are religious and irreligious. Of bringing down barriers of suspicion and division.”