Ramat Gan Rabbi Yaakov Ariel has sharply condemned those who wish to harm the Chief Rabbinate, even if they wear a kippa and hold rabbinic ordination. Rabbi Ariel spoke in response to reports that the Hotel Association intends to receive its kashrut certification from the Tzohar rabbinical organization and not from the Chief Rabbinate.
"I cannot even understand the notion that Tzohar would take over from the Chief Rabbinate in matters of Kashrut, " said Rabbi Ariel. "But even before Tzohar, there are religious people constantly trying to claim that the Rabbinate has a monopoly over kashrut. Monopoly is a serious term, an economic and industrial term. What does it have to do with halacha? The Chief Rabbinate was established to be the senior ruling body on kashrut in Israel, and the hospitals, army, public institutions and private citizens rely on it. 90% of the public rely on the Rabbinate."
Regarding the demand by Tzohar that the Chief Rabbinate should be privatized and serve as a regulator of other bodies, Rabbi Ariel termed this a "ridiculous idea."
"It will cost ten times as much because the Rabbinate will need thousands of supervisors to go from place to place and check whether the supervisors are maintaining the standards of the Rabbinate or not," explained Rabbi Ariel. "Today the Rabbinate does this job well. Why should this system be removed from the Rabbinate's authority?"
Rabbi Ariel said that Hotel Association claims that the Chief Rabbinate supervision is not uniform are actually correct but they also have an economic interest in the matter. "Since they have a chain of hotels in a number of towns, they exploit the differences and sometimes squeeze out leniencies in kashrut regulations, sometimes even lying to achieve this."
Although Rabbi Ariel admitted that there are problems with the kashrut system, he feels that the real need is for an independent sovereign body which will employ the kashrut supervisors so that they will not be beholden to hotel managers. This idea has been torpedoed by Knesset members in the past.
"The issue here is that there is a group which sees itself as religious but is destroying the kashrut which is the most basic and normative aspect of the Jewish people's unity," says Rabbi Ariel. "The right way is to strengthen the Chief Rabbinate. A religious person, especially one calling himself rabbi, shouldn't destroy the best possible framework for kashrut."