The chairman of the Knesset's Finance Committee, Rabbi
Avrohom Ravitz of United Torah Judaism, reiterated this past
Monday his refusal to bring the Budget Law and the
Arrangements Law in the Economy to the Committee -- two bills
that are critical for the entire Israeli government -- for
approval unless the Knesset plenum gives final approval to
the law which prevents the inclusion of Reform and
Conservative delegates in the religious councils.
As a result, the budget will not be discussed this week, but
rather next Monday or Tuesday. Rabbi Ravitz feels confident
that the plenum will approve the Religious Councils Law at a
second and third reading. However, he stressed that if,
cholila this does not occur, there will be no budget.
As Chairman of the powerful Knesset Finance Committee, Rabbi
Ravitz is in a position to enforce his demands. Chareidi
analysts noted that Rabbi Ravitz's principled stand has
already been called "blackmail" by opposition members, but
the name-calling is unlikely to be successful in view of the
fact that the issue is purely one of principle and involves
Meanwhile, in the first case to which the law would apply,
none of the old members of the Haifa Religious Council came
to a scheduled meeting last Monday night, despite a High
Court order to do so. As a result the meeting was cancelled.
The only ones there were the chairman, who was under a direct
court order to come, and the new Reform and Conservative
representatives of the anti-religious Meretz party. Even the
representatives of secular parties, who are themselves
religious (as has been the norm up until now), did not show
Council chairman Yitzchok Getz appeared and announced that he
was present and was forced to convene the meeting against his
will. He then retired to the Torah library, in order to avoid
sitting together with the Reform and Conservative members.
Though the room was almost void of council members, it was
full of members of the press.
After about an hour, Getz came out and said that since a
quorum was not present, the meeting was cancelled. He
expressed his satisfaction about the fact that most members
did not come. According to the rules of the religious
councils, if a quorum is not present, the council must meet
again in a week and then conduct business with as many
members as are on hand.
The members of the Haifa Religious Council are awaiting
developments in the course of the week and have turned to the
gedolei Torah for advice on what to do about the next
meeting when the business of the Council may be conducted
with any number in attendance. At that session a chairman and
deputies are to be selected. These are powerful and salaried
Interior Minister Eli Suissa has formulated a plan to
drastically cut the number of religious council members. The
Haifa council, which now has 32 members, would have nine
under his plan. Smaller cities would have seven, and local
councils would have five. This would, in turn, cut the number
of council members nominated by political parties and
probably eliminate the Reform and Conservative nominees, who
were all named by Meretz which is a relatively small party.
The general secretary of Degel HaTorah, Rabbi Moshe Gafni,
repeated his past demand that the religious councils be
dismantled, and said that the formats of the religious
councils should at least be altered. "This body has lost its
vitality," he said, "and in light of the threats of the
Reform, we should continue to demand that religious services
be delivered differently."
Massive Haifa Protest Rally
A large rally was held in Haifa on Sunday, the 29th of Teves,
a day before the abortive first meeting of the Haifa
Religious Council, in protest of the inclusion of Reform and
Conservative members in the religious councils. At the end of
the rally it was decided, in line with the directives of
maranan verabonon gedolei Yisroel, to call upon
religious council members throughout the country not to
participate in religious councils that have been forced by
the High Court to include heretical elements whose purpose is
to undermine religion and Judaism.
The Beis Knesses HaGodol of Haifa, which has more than 1500
seats, was too small for all of the participants in the
protest rally. Many remained outside and heard the speeches
through amplifiers. The participants, hailing from all
circles in the city, protested the judicial coercion which
has forced the inclusion of the Reform in the religious
The massive rally, the likes of which Haifa has never seen,
was attended by the rosh yeshiva of Nachlas HaLevi'im,
R' Yisroel Meir Weiss; the Admor of Seret-Vizhnitz; the Admor
of Kalev; the gaavad of Makwa, R' Shimon Lemberger; R'
Yisroel Dovid Ruste, the rav of Haifa's chassidic
community of Gur; HaRav Osher Neuhaus, the rosh yeshiva
of Yeshivas Hatzor; the Chief Rabbis of Haifa and the rabbis
of its various neighborhoods; the city's avos beis din
Many public figures were also present, among them UTJ's
representatives in the city council; deputy mayor Rabbi Moshe
Shtetman; chairman of the religious council, R' Yitzchok
Getz, the Torah observant members of the religious council,
and the council's representatives from other parties.
The rally was opened by the rosh yeshiva of Mishkan
Yaakov, HaRav Dovid Katz, who noted that Haifa is serving as
a testing ground for the Reform in their attempts to gain
nationwide control over all of the country's religious life.
The Chief Rabbis of Haifa summarized the deliberations which
preceded the ruling of the High Court regarding the Reform
and noted the audacity of those representatives who replied
in an offensive manner to the questionnaire sent to all of
the members of the religious council, while attempting to
change the halocho.
"The voice which rises up from Haifa must be sounded all over
the country, and we have merited to battle for the sake of
the preservation of religion," the Chief Rabbis declared.
HaRav Osher Neuhaus, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas
Hatzor, spoke about the great danger of the Reform and
presented statistics proving that the claims of the Reform
that they represent the Jewish nation in the Diaspora are
false. "Now that they have gone bankrupt from a spiritual
standpoint and caused massive assimilation in the United
States, they seek to do this here, and we must be on the
alert," he said. He also said that their attempt to be
included in the religious council constitutes a springboard
for their ultimate aim, which is to gain nationwide
legitimacy for all of their activities, including conversion,
and we must firmly oppose and prevent this.
"This is a spiritual battle, and it is not for nothing that
certain judges are trying to assist them," said HaRav
The Admor of Seret-Vizhnitz read a chapter in Tehillim
and those present responded. Afterward, the rosh
yeshiva of Nachlas HaLevi'im, R' Yisroel Meir Weiss, read
the classifications of "dvar Hashem bozoh" from
Sha'arei Teshuvah. "This term," HaRav Weiss said,
"includes these porkei ol who have invented a new Torah
and who are acting out of spite. Those who have assimilated
have no Jewish posterity. Only those who follow the path of
Torah as transmitted from generation to generation merit
Jewish posterity. We must pray that all of the errant and
lost return and must strengthen ourselves inwardly. Most of
all, we must not yield even one iota in this battle."
Decisions Made at the Rally|
At the end of the massive rally in Haifa, the following
decisions were announced:
a) In accordance with maranan verabonon, gedolei haTorah
vehaChassidusand in accordance with the Chief Rabbis of
Israel and the Chief Rabbis of Haifa, [we hereby state] that
it is forbidden for any Torah and mitzvah-observant Jew who
believes in Torah miSinai to officiate as a member of a
religious council which includes representatives from
movements whose sole purpose is to undermine our faith and to
uproot Torah from the Jewish nation.
b) It is inconceivable that the Haifa Religious Council which
has conducted itself according to the pure halocho
passed down to us from generation to generation since its
inception fifty years ago, should be forced to include
representatives who distort the Torah and its mitzvos.
c) The Reform and Conservative movements have been destroying
Kerem Yisroel for decades, and have brought about
massive assimilation the word over. It is inconceivable to
allow them entry into Eretz Hakodesh.
d) The assembly declares that absolutely no collaboration
will take place with the Haifa Religious Council if and when
those baneful representatives are included within it.
e) The assembly warns that the inclusion of the Reform and
Conservative in the Haifa Religious Council will result in a
rift in the nation and in forming separate communities.
f) The assembly strengthens and blesses the members of the
Haifa Religious Council who are safeguarding the walls of
religion and Judaism. These representatives will not
participate in the meetings of the Religious Council and are
acting in accordance with the advice of the rabbonim.
g) The assembly calls upon all members of religious councils
throughout the country to embrace the decisions accepted in
Haifa. Although Haifa is the first city in the country [whose
religious council has been forced to include Reform and
Conservative delegates] it is clear that the aim of the
destroyers of our religion is to undermine from within all of
the religious councils and religious services in our sacred
h) At this time, when unity is so necessary for the Jewish
nation, this assembly turns to the Prime Minster, to the
religious ministers and to the Knesset members to act on
behalf of unity and to effect the annulment of this terrible
We close with the prayer and appeal that every ruse which
rises up against us will not succeed. May we be grow stronger
for the sake of our people and the cities of Hashem.