Religious Zionist Rabbi Named Religious Court Judge, Despite ultra-Orthodox Objections

Rabbi Eliezer Igra was backed by Habayit Hayehudi, opposed by ultra-Orthodox.

Yair Ettinger
Yair Ettinger
Rabbi Eliezer Igra
Rabbi Eliezer Igra.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Yair Ettinger
Yair Ettinger

After a six-hour session, the committee for appointing dayanim (religious court judges) managed to reach an agreement on only one dayan out of the seven it is supposed to appoint. Rabbi Eliezer Igra will be appointed to the Supreme Rabbinical Court, and also serve on the committee for appointing dayanim, although the step is not automatic. Igra is identified with religious Zionism.

Although Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef was opposed to his appointment on Monday, Igra has already been approved in the past by the chief rabbi, who in recent years had given him a temporary appointment to the Supreme Rabbinical Court. Igra, the rabbi of Moshav Kfar Maimon in the Negev, ran for the office of chief rabbi three years ago.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) said this is “a tremendous achievement for Habayit Hayehudi, I’m very pleased.” She said that since the beginning of the session, the non-Haredi bloc on the committee – which at present constitutes a majority of five out of nine members – tried to suggest a number of candidates for the Supreme Rabbinical Court, and all were rejected by the chairman of Shas, Interior Minister Arye Dery.

Among the names proposed was Rabbi Uriel Lavi, who headed a panel in the Safed Rabbinical Court that released an aguna, granting a religious divorce to a woman whose husband has been in a coma for the past seven years. There were other suggestions to link the voting to additional appointments to the regional rabbinical courts, including the names of rabbis who are identified with the Tzohar organization of moderate Zionist rabbis – a red flag for the ultra-Orthodox.

After these proposals were rejected one by one, and although no consensus was reached, it was decided to bring up the name of Igra for a vote and he was chosen by the required majority, seven out of nine. Apparently the only two who were opposed were Chief Rabbi Yosef and MK Israel Eichler (United Torah Judaism). Apparently Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau supported Igra, increasing the already existing tension between him and his Sephardi colleague.

Igra’s appointment does not remove the threat to shut down the Supreme Rabbinical Court, as decided by the High Court of Justice. According to the High Court decision, by Thursday the state is supposed to report progress in appointing all the missing dayanim. Shaked said that the High Court was “another member of the committee for appointing dayanim,” for fear that it would carry out its threat.

On January 7 the High Court ruled, in response to a petition by the Jewish State Movement, that all the missing job slots on the Supreme Rabbinical Court must be filled, and if not, the temporary appointments on which the court has relied for the past few years would be revoked. “We are deciding for the benefit of the many,” ruled Justices Elyakim Rubinstein, Menachem Mazuz and Uri Shoham, “that the respondents (the religious services minister, the chief rabbis, the committee for appointing dayanim, and others) must appoint the dayanim to the Supreme Rabbinical Court within three months.”

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