Mordechay Eisenberg - Moti Milrod - 22112011
Attorney Mordechay Eisenberg in Bnei Brak. Photo by Moti Milrod
Text size

Human rights groups voiced outrage on Monday at an emerging political deal that will apparently leave the committee to appoint dayanim (rabbinical court judges ) without a single female member for the first time in 12 years.

As first reported in Haaretz on Monday, the Bar Association will apparently vote on Tuesday to name two men as its representatives on the panel, despite a written promise to appoint a woman that was issued just two months earlier by Yori Geiron, who heads the majority faction on the Bar's national council.

Under a political deal made with the Bar's Haredi (ultra-Orthodox ) factions, Geiron has instead thrown his weight behind attorneys Asher Axelrod and Mordechay Eisenberg.

Women be no better off, too, if one of the candidates were chosen by Bar Association chairman Doron Barzilay, as per a bill now advancing in the Knesset with the government's backing: Barzilay and the Shas faction have cut their own deal under which the Bar chairman will back the faction's preferred candidate - apparently attorney Doron Shmueli.

Since all of the panel's other members are men, this would leave it entirely devoid of women.

Rabbi Uri Regev, who heads the Hiddush - For Religious Freedom and Equality organization, wrote a blistering letter on Monday to Barzilay and Zvi Firon, the chairman of the Bar's national council, in which he demanded the cancelation of the deal. For the Bar not to name a woman to the appointments committee "ignores decades of progress by the Israeli legal system in realizing the principle of equal status for women," Rabbi Regev wrote.

"It implicitly strengthens the growing threat of women being removed from the public sphere due to Haredi political and economic pressure, and betrays the Bar's responsibility and function of strengthening civil rights and gender equality."

Axelrod and Eisenberg confirmed on Monday that the likelihood of their appointments, but denied that they would strengthen the Haredi faction on the committee.

"It's hard for me to believe that a woman from the Israel Women's Network would do as much good for women as I would," said Axelrod, arguing that a fervent feminist would "cause provocations and antagonism that might hinder her from advancing" women's rights.

Saying he believes the rabbinical courts are in need of thorough reform, Axelrod insisted that he would be able to take an independent line, because "I have no dayanim as friends and have almost never appeared in the rabbinical courts."

Eisenberg, who is himself Haredi, insisted that he would be "independent" and not a representative of the Haredi parties. Nevertheless, he added, "despite the stigma" attached to the rabbinical courts, most dayanim did excellent work.