Mikveh Photo: Flash 90

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved Sunday the "Mikvah bill" proposed by MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) and sponsored by MKs from UTJ, Shas and Jewish Home.

The bill states that public Mikvaot, baths used for the purpose of ritual immersion, will only follow the guidelines of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. The bill is an effort to cancel the Supreme Court's decision that public Mikvaot must be open for use in all conversions, including conversions through the Reform and Conservative movements that do not adhere to Jewish law.

The bill was approved and will soon undergo a preliminary reading in a Knesset plenum. According to the committee's decision, after a preliminary reading, the coalition will try to reach agreement regarding the bill's advancement.

According to halakha, a woman immersing in a ritual bath in order to fulfill the laws of family purity, must have a woman fluent in the halakhot, known in Hebrew as a balanit and certified by local religious councils, present to be sure that the mitzva has been done properly and to hear the woman immersing recite the appropriate blessing. To agree to advance the bill, members of Jewish Home demand that the Director General of the Ministry of Religious Affairs reinstate the guideline which forbids the balanit from asking women who wish to use the Mikvah for religious reasons other than conversion, invasive questions, as a condition for legislation.

The factions are concerned that if the law passes without that guideline anchored through the Chief Rabbinate Council, then the guidelines will lose their validity and all the changes unconnected to conversion with regard to operating the Mikvaot will be lost.

The Kulanu faction are forming opposition to the bill, led by MK Rachel Azaria, who would like to institute a guideline whereby women could bring a friend to observe their immersion, instead of the certified balanit.