The Jewish Agency’s nominating committee has recommended a retired senior Israeli military commander for the body’s next chairman, filling a position which has remained vacant since former Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog left to serve as Israel's president last June.
Maj. Gen. (Res.) Doron Almog, who currently serves as the as chairman of the Adi Negev-Nahalat Eran Rehabilitation Village, was the commander of the IDF Southern Command from 2000-2003 and is a recipient of the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement and Special Contribution to Society and the State (2016) and Chairman of the Israel Security Award Committee (2022).
His selection still needs to be submitted to the full Jewish Agency Board of Governors for approval at its next meeting on July 10 in Jerusalem.
The committee tasked with nominating the next chairman had come under mounting pressure in recent weeks to reach consensus on a candidate. A key concern was that the Jewish Agency board of governors would meet yet again next month without approving a candidate, which would mean that the earliest date for a permanent chairman to be appointed would be next October. The board of governors convenes three times a year, and the candidate chosen by the committee requires its final approval.
The sense of urgency intensified in recent weeks after Yaakov Hagoel, the acting chairman of the Jewish Agency, was taken to task for acts of violence perpetuated against a feminist prayer group at the Western Wall.
The harassment occurred at an event sponsored by the World Zionist Organization for religious seminary girls and was timed to coincide with the Women of the Wall's monthly prayer service. At the event, the young girls could be seen waving WZO flags as they shoved, taunted and spat on participants in the Women of the Wall service.
The event had been sponsored in partnership with Liba – an extremist organization that is fiercely opposed to pluralistic prayer at the Western Wall.
Since Hagoel also serves as chairman of the WZO, questions were raised about his dual roles, especially considering that the Jewish Agency spearheaded the Western Wall deal, which was meant to expand pluralistic prayer at the Jewish holy site.
To expedite the nomination process, a decision was taken last week to establish a subcommittee of four that would draw up a shortlist of candidates for the top Jewish Agency job.
Another leading candidate for the position had been Mark Regev, who served in the past as foreign media adviser to Israeli prime ministers – Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu – and as Israel’s ambassador to London.
In February, after months of indecision, the selection committee disqualified all seven candidates who had been competing for the top job at the Jewish Agency until that point, and announced that it was beginning the process again from scratch. This was after it failed to reach a consensus on any of those candidates.
The original list of candidates had included several women – among them Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, deputy mayor of Jerusalem, and Ruth Calderon, a talmudic scholar and the founder of Israel’s first secular yeshiva. There were no serious female candidates in the running since then.
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In a statement, Hagoel said that he extended “my congratulations to Almog on his nomination, and I am confident that he will lead The Jewish Agency with the same dedication and determination with which his predecessors in this position acted.”
“I am proud and excited about the trust and election,” Almog said, describing himself as “grateful to the people of the Agency and its leaders who work day and night to strengthen the Jewish people and the State of Israel. By working together, we will ignite flame and pride in our work for a future of hope for future generations."
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that "Doron Almog represents all that is beautiful about Israel," adding that Almog "expresses military and civil courage, a deep love for the people of Israel, to the land and to human beings in general."
President Isaac Herzog also congratulated Almog on his new position which he said was "very important in the Jewish world as it aims to connect Israel to diaspora Jews, and also influences Israeli society, Aliyah and integration."