The Rabbinic Judges Appointment Committee is to vote Tuesday to appoint three rabbinic judges to the High Rabbinic Court. Womens groups are waging a campaign against most of the 12 candidates.
Women's groups and attorneys specializing in family law have sent the members of the committee, chaired by Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, booklets containing the controversial rulings of the leading candidates.
They warn that some of the candidates' extremely conservative stands on women's rights will be detrimental to Israeli society should they be asked to rule on the issue.
The attitude toward divorce is a particular sore point, given the 17,000 divorce proceedings that were started in 2009 alone.
Among the 12 judges of the regional rabbinic courts who are vying for the three positions, Shas, which has a powerful voice on the committee, would like to see two judges of its choosing.
In the past, religious groups maintained an unofficial balance between the three Orthodox sectors: Sephardic, Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox and national religious.
It is believed Shas would rather have an ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi appointment for the third judge rather than a judge from the national religious camp.
Rabbi Yitzhak Almalih, who is backed by Shas, is one of the only candidates not to incur opposition from women's groups.
Three other leading candidates are rabbis Nahum Prover and Avraham Sheinfeld, who are supported by United Torah Judaism, and Shas favorites Yisrael Yifrach, Ya'akov Zamir and Binyamin Levi.
However, a letter from Ikar, a coalition of womens groups, notes that these rabbis have evinced a forgiving attitude toward violent husbands or those who refused to grant them a divorce.
Prover is supported by the leader of the non-Hassidic faction of ultra-Orthodoxy, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.
In his rulings Prover has reportedly invoked a 16th-century religious law that gives men preference over women in divorce.
According to Ikar, Prover has ruled that a woman who has not accepted certain economic conditions imposed by the husband is putting herself in a condition to not be granted a halakhic divorce.
Prover declined to respond for this report. However in the past he has denied that he defines violence by husbands very narrowly, and said that he once required a husband to grant a divorce although the man had not been violent at all.
Batya Kahana-Dror, director general of Mavoi Satum, a group that assists women who are unable to obtain divorces, railed against Prover and Sheinfeld. "Appointing the likes of Prover or Sheinfeld throws back the rabbinic court system ... as an Orthodox woman I think that the women of Israel will have to ... do everything in their power not to reach the rabbinic courts. It will be a danger."
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