Senior Israeli Rabbi Says Whirlwind of Politics 'Is Not for Women'

Religious-Zionist rabbi Shlomo Aviner, who has major political influence, rejects possibility that Ayelet Shaked can head bloc of right-wing parties

Former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Bezalel Smotrich at a faction meeting of the Habayit Hayehudi party, March 16, 2018.
Tomer Appelbaum

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, one of the leading rabbis of the religious Zionist movement in Israel, rejected the possibility that a woman would head the bloc of right-wing parties in the next election. “The complicated whirlwind of politics is not for women,” he said in an interview with Kan Bet public radio on Thursday.

Aviner, the head of the Ateret Yerushalayim Yeshiva in Jerusalem and the former rabbi of the West Bank settkement of Beit El, aimed his remark at former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. 

In the interview, he referred to a document he had signed alongside other prominent rabbis in which they urged that Shaked should not be the head of the right-wing bloc because she is secular. 

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A person like Shaked could not head a religious party, Aviner said: “It is better to lose Knesset seats and put a religious person at the head of the party."

“It is a big job that needs people whose entire life is Torah and they can lead the battles for the good of the nation,” Aviner added.

File photo: Rabbi Shlomo Aviner poses for a photo at the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism award ceremony, Jerusalem, May 12, 2010.
Tomer Appelbaum

Shaked's Hayamin Hehadash party did not pass the electoral threshold in the April 9 election, and since then the former justice minister has been weighing her options. Last month she said that she is likely to run for the Knesset in the upcoming September 17 election, and did not rule out a merger with her former party, Habayit Hayehudi. 

A poll published last month which surveyed religious voters showed that Shaked is the most popular candidate to lead the religious-Zionist camp.

Aviner has previously other such comments against the involvement of women in politics. In 2012, he told a group of students at Ateret Yerushalayim (then called Ateret Cohanim) that they were not allowed to vote for women in party primaries, and he would also refrain from doing so. During the lecture on “Women Voting and Being Elected,” he ruled that women were allowed to vote, or in his words: “Go to the polling station and return home.” The problem Aviner took up was with women running for political office, which then forces them to attend public events that are “immodest.” 

“Is a woman allowed to be a Knesset member? Of course not. There is no question, since the laws of modesty state that women and men need to keep their distance. They throw women into the public tumult, so they are being looked at,” Aviner explained.

Aviner has major political and spiritual influence in the Habayit Hayehudi party, but he has no real authority or veto. However, any actions taken against his explicit positions could be politically damaging, thus making it difficult for the party’s central committee to pass decisions defying his views.