Israeli ultra-Orthodox Lawmaker Compares Reform Jews to Mentally Ill

In attack against High Court ruling allowing equal access to public ritual baths, MK Eichler says 'not every mentally ill person can come to the operating room and decide the rules of medicine.'

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) speaks in the Knesset of the so-called Governability Law.
MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) speaks in the Knesset of the so-called Governability Law.Credit: Oren Nachshon
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

MK Israel Eichler (United Torah Judaism) launched a diatribe against the Reform Movement and the High Court of Justice over the court’s decision that people who did not convert through the state-sanctioned, Orthodox system must not be denied the right to immerse in public ritual baths.

In his request to hold a debate on the matter, which will be discussed on Wednesday in the Knesset, Eichler said: “Not every mentally ill person can come to the operating room and decide the rules of medicine and force the hospital to have an operation by whatever way works. The High Court can’t force a hospital to allow the court’s surgeons and the court’s medicines into the operating room. And so it is intolerable that the directors of ritual baths will have to allow organizers of Reform religion-changing ceremonies into a Jewish ritual bath.”

According to Eichler, “Just as it would be inconceivable for the High Court to obligate a mosque to specifically allow Ashkenazi Jewish afternoon prayers, so the High Court must not force a Christian church to allow an al-Khader prayer in the Shi’ite traditionthus the High Court has no authority to enforce Jewish law, whose source of authority is the Torah, which the High Court does not recognize as a source of its legal authority.”

In the same vein, Eichler added that the state “funded Christians and Muslims without interfering in prayers and baptisms.”

Eichler accused the High Court of trying to spark a religious war, alluding to a comparison with the “outcome of the interreligious war in Syria.”

“The High Court decision to force the members of the Jewish religion to carry out ritual bath rules and conversions according to the Reform religion, which does not believe in the purity of the ritual bathis a serious infraction of freedom of religion for the members of the Jewish religion, which has clear laws. Religious freedom is promised in the Declaration of Independence to the members of all religions in the State of Israel including the believers in the Jewish religion.”

The three High Court justices, Elyakim Rubinstein, Salim Joubran and High Court President Miriam Naor, unanimously accepted the petition of the Reform and Masorati (Conservative) movements against the decision of the Be’er Sheva District Court, sitting as a court for administrative affairs, to exclude people who did not convert in the state-sanctioned system from immersing in public ritual baths. The ruling would apply to all cities in the country, the justices said.

Rubinstein said that excluding non-Orthodox converts from public ritual baths constituted discrimination. “The state’s choice not to supervise immersion undertaken in private conversions cannot justify the prevention of immersions of this type,” he said.

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