Eli Ben-Dahan and Nir Barkat
Eli Ben-Dahan and Nir Barkat Jacky Levi

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan reached an agreement on Thursday, pledging to push forward elections for the position of Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem

Israel's capital has not had a Chief Rabbi for the last ten years, which has sparked Barkat to call for the revival of Chief Ashkenazi and Sephardi Rabbis for the city. Elections for the Chief Rabbinate of Jerusalem were pushed off last year due to the Knesset and local elections.

In the meeting this Thursday, the two agreed to have a voting body to select the Chief Rabbis formed in the coming weeks. Half of the electing body's members will be selected by the City Council, and another quarter by local synagogue representatives.

An additional eighth will be comprised of local rabbis selected by the Minister of Religious Affairs, with another eighth coming from public representatives that the Minister of Religious Affairs will select with the mayor's agreement. 30% of the voting body will be women.

"Jerusalem for a long time is in need of a rabbi for its rabbis, to glorify its name and provide the spiritual Jewish guidance for the city," remarked Ben-Dahan. "We are certain that the new changes establish a shorter and less cumbersome process of elections, which gives greater representation to the city's residents."

Barkat noted "we are happy to announce to the residents of Jerusalem that the election process for the Chief Rabbis of the city has begun."

Referring to his term in office, Barkat said "in the last eight years I didn't hesitate to stop the process by petitions to the Supreme Court when there were attempts at opportunism to appoint two rabbis that didn't properly represent the different elements of the public."

"Now the election mechanism has been changed to ensure the election of a Zionist rabbi who represents the populations of the city with respect, alongside a hareidi rabbi, as befitting a city in which 70% of the Jews are not hareidim," added Barkat.

One of the rabbis whose name has been raised in connection to the position is Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, currently the Chief Rabbi of Tzfat. Leftists have been attempting to block Rabbi Eliyahu's nomination.

Their contention stems mainly from a religious ruling Rabbi Eliyahu made with dozens of other rabbis, declaring that Jews living in Tzfat should not rent or sell their homes to Arabs.  The declaration followed complaints that Arabs were deliberately causing disturbances with the intent of driving their Jewish neighbors out.