In a year and a half, the tenure of the two chief rabbis of Israel, Rabbi David Lau and Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, will end - and the coalition is already taking its first steps in order to dramatically change the composition of the electoral assembly.
The newspaper Israel Hayom published for the first time a bill by MK Moshe Tur-Paz (Yesh Atid) seeking to reduce the power of the Chief Rabbinate in the body that elects the chief rabbis, and on the other hand, to strengthen more liberal elements.
Under current law, the Electoral Assembly has 150 members, including 80 rabbis - ten of whom are elected by the chief rabbis. However, according to MK Tur-Paz's bill, the number of members of the assembly will be reduced to 120, and representation for the Chief Rabbinate will be limited to only 50 rabbis. Ten of them will be elected by the Religious Affairs Minister, MK Matan Kahana (Yamina), along with six kibbutz rabbis who are considered more liberal, and who will also be elected by the Minister. In the proposal, MK Tur-Paz will also narrow the activity of the Chief Rabbinate, by removing 18 heads of religious councils from the Electoral Assembly.
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The bill strengthens the Knesset in the Electoral Assembly, with eight representatives from among the Knesset members (compared to five under the existing law). In addition, in contrast to the current situation, where members of the Electoral Assembly include only two ministers, the proposed law includes four ministers - the Minister of Religious Affairs, the Diaspora Affairs Minister, the Minister of Aliyah and Absorption, and another minister elected by the government.
In addition, there would be the chairman of the Student Association and his deputy; the chairman of the Histadrut; ten public figures from the fields of spirituality, education, and culture; three representatives of women's organizations working in the areas where the Chief Rabbinate works; and three representatives from the committee of heads of universities - an addition of liberal forces in the body that elects the chief rabbis. The meeting will also include 25 major mayors and the six major local councilors. The bill emphasizes female representation in the assembly, and in many of its parts there is an obligation to introduce female representation among public figures.
The proposal includes two other significant changes: one, making the secret ballot public, to prevent behind-the-scenes secret deals; and the other, a condition according to which a person who wants to run for the position will have to be a judge or the training to be a judge. This is an important detail, given the identity of a potential candidate: Rabbi David Stav, who has received judicial training, and who is considered controversial in the eyes of the haredi public, to say the least.
"Throughout the years, those elected to the position of chief rabbi were rabbis who had a Zionist outlook and public responsibility," MK Tur-Paz wrote in the explanatory memorandum to the bill. "In recent years we have witnessed aggravation and disconnection, while preferring political considerations." Thanks to the proposal, says MK Tor-Paz, "the choice of rabbis will reflect the variety of opinions and voices in Israel."