We are painfully forced to hand over parts of Eretz Yisroel in pursuit of the greater goal of peace. The economy is rocky as unemployment is still high, the shekel weak and the outlook uncertain. Yet what concerns us today is the inclusion of Reform and Conservative representatives in the Religious Councils.
These councils are panels of people appointed by the Minister of Religions with the concurrence of the local rabbi to administer the disbursement of public funds to deliver "religious services." These services include some of the mikvaos, some support for construction of buildings that serve religious purposes and some seasonal needs such as hag'olo before Pesach.
The religious councils are models of political patronage and inefficiency. A hefty proportion of their budget goes for salaries for the head, his deputies and other staff — which are substantial. Religious councils are rarely the sole provider of a given service — often there are alternatives, usually competing in the open market, offering similar services.
The religious councils are political panels appointed to deliver religious services. It has been established that they must represent the community that they serve. Yet the Conservative and Reform communities in Israel are so small — about 1% or less of the population — that they can hardly be said to deserve representation. So what is their basis for demanding to sit on the religious councils?
The answer is that the atheist and anti-religious Meretz voters claim that the Reform and Conservative are their representatives. They want them to represent their interests on the religious councils. These are people who do not avail themselves of religious services. It is abundantly clear that their interest in religion is only to weaken it as much as possible and ultimately to destroy it.
The Reform and Conservative themselves are interested in being on the councils to receive recognition, for what it will do for them in America and Europe. Here their communities are so small, and so well-funded (from private and Israeli government sources), that they have no real need for more money.
What they seek is the legitimacy of sitting and working together with the representatives of real Judaism, so that they can claim to be a part of Jewish tradition. Their congregations are increasingly distant from Judaism. Many of their communities have non-Jewish, non-converted (by anyone) majorities. Their links to Judaism are so tenuous that the question that Maran HaRav Shach posed to the secular Israelis — In what way are you Jewish? — rings out strongly even without being asked. If they are granted recognition in Israel, it gives them a strong claim to being part of Jewish tradition in the Diaspora as well.
The seating of Reform and/or Conservative representatives on the councils is of the gravest concern to us. This was clear from the decision of the gedolim that UTJ should withdraw from the governing coalition if its demands are not met in this area.
We have not done well from this government. We can tolerate the other violations of the coalition agreement with the current government — the decreases in funding, the attacks on the Torah world, the failure to pass important legislation that was promised. We can swallow our pride at being taken for granted because, even though we gave the Prime Minister more votes than his slim margin of victory, we are perceived to have no alternative.
However, we cannot tolerate the entry of destructive heretics whose mere presence on the religious councils will cause terrible damage both here in Israel and in chutz la'aretz. Even though we know well that we still have plenty to lose from a change in governments, nonetheless, if it is burning right now, we must flee the fire.