A bill that would prevent Reform and Conservative Jews from
sitting on the religious councils despite a ruling by the
High Court was put on hold by the Knesset Law Committee last
The committee met to discuss the preparation of the religious
councils bill for second and third reading in the plenum, but
the vote was postponed after Meretz MK Dedi Zuker, with other
opposition MKs, filed 2,400 reservations to it, all of which
have to be discussed at the committee stage before the bill
can go back to the plenum.
The bill, initiated by the Torah-observant parties, requires
all members of the religious councils to pledge obedience to
the rulings of the Chief Rabbinate and halacha.
The Chief Rabbinate has banned the religious councils that
have non-Orthodox members from meeting, rather than have them
meet with the non-Orthodox representatives on them, according
to Rabbi Simha Kook from the Chief Rabbinate.
Supporters of the bill also submitted reservations to
minimize the effect of a High Court ruling that permitted the
inclusion of Reform and Conservative representatives into a
number of religious councils. The reservations determine that
all members of the religious councils must declare that they
will act only in accordance with the halocho (as
determined by the Chief Rabbinate or the local rabbinates),
and that anyone who violates his declaration and the
directives of the halocho will automatically be
expelled from the council.
This reservation is necessary in light of the intention of
the Reform and the Conservative to grant lip service to any
declaration they are asked to make, even that demanding that
they act in accordance with the halacha, in order to be
able to sit on the religious councils.
A meeting of MKs to discuss the bill immediately deteriorated
into an argument over whether the religious councils are
halachic-religious bodies or merely administrative ones.
The Deputy Religious Affairs Minister, Rabbi Aryeh Gamliel
(Shas) said that the religious councils issue decisions and
act on clear halachic topics, such as mikvaos, kashrus
and eruvim, and therefore there is no doubt that they
are distinct religious arms. MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said
that just as it is inconceivable for a Jew to tell a Moslem
how to conduct his religious life, so the Reform and
Conservatives may not tell Jews how to conduct their
Dedi Zucker (Meretz) protested that totally secular Jews,
who desecrate Shabbos in public, are allowed to officiate in
religious councils, while the Reform are denied this
opportunity. MK Rabbi Laizerson replied that this matter also
has to be corrected, and that it is indeed inconceivable for
a person who desecrates Shabbos to be affiliated with a
HaRav Simcha Kook, the Chief Rabbi of Rechovot, expressed the
position of the Chief Rabbinate Council. This position,
formulated at its meeting a few weeks ago, states that no
religious representative shall sit on a religious council
alongside a member of the Reform or Conservative movements
and that if the Reform or Conservatives enter the religious
councils, the religious members will not sit there with
"The Reform and Conservative movements have formulated a new
thesis which has no link to religion. The Jewish faith is
structured on belief in the Creator of the universe. Is it
conceivable for clerics who declare that they don't believe
in the Creator of the universe, rachmono litzlan, to
sit in religious councils?" he asked.
The Reform representative, Uri Regev said that the religious
council is clearly a civil body, and that the entire law is
meant to restrict the Reform movement and undermine the
ruling of the court.
The Conservative representative said that despite the law,
and despite all of the declarations which members of the
religious councils will be asked to make, they will find the
way to participate in the meetings of the religious
MK Rabbi Laizerson said that these remarks are very serious,
because they manifest a clear, pre-mediated intent to sign
and pronounce false declarations.
MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) adamantly opposed the Reform and the
Conservative movements. "For 50 years," he said, "the red
lines were not crossed. In this country, there must be only
one Judaism. Only the halocho can determine one's
Jewish status...There is one Judaism, and no other. "The
Reform movement doesn't want pluralism. They want war. Most
of the residents of the State of Israel want the
halocho to prevail in marriages, divorces,
circumcisions and the like. This is the aspiration of most of
the public here. It would be preferable if there were no need
for the law...But since there is...we will fight the Reform
tooth and nail."
MK Rabbi Laizerson said: "This is our position regarding the
Reform: They are dangerous, they falsify the Torah, they
divide the Nation. The directive not to sit with the Reform
and Conservativere presentatives nor to cooperate with them
in any religious forum whatsoever was made by the gedolei
Yisroel of the United States 40 years ago."
He then turned to the Reform representative: "You are not
satisfied with the havoc you wreaked in the U.S., but come
here to Eretz Yisroel with a mock-religion, which is all
tomfoolery and a joke. You don't need the religious councils.
All you want is war. But that won't help you. There is no
power, no authority or body on earth which will permit this.
We won't sit with you. We won't cooperate with you . We won't
do a thing with you. You are wasting your time. Leave
religion alone. Leave us alone. No rabbi and no religious
person who believes in Hashem and His Torah will ever grant
you legitimization. We will fight you tooth and nail. We will
not let the destruction you caused in America be duplicated