Yisrael Beiteinu Seeks to Abolish Local Religious Councils

Under a bill submitted to the Knesset ahead of its upcoming summer session, all of the councils' powers and responsibilities would be transferred to municipal governments.

Yisrael Beiteinu has submitted a bill which would eliminate Israel's local religious councils and transfer their powers to municipal governments.

The bill was submitted by MK Robert Ilatov ahead of the Knesset's upcoming summer session, which begins in late April.  

Avigdor Lieberman AP

Israel's local religious councils are currently under the authority of the Religious Affairs Ministry. The councils provide a variety of religious services, including marriage, burial and kashrut, and follow the religious guidance of the Chief Rabbinate.    

According to the proposal, the religious councils would be completely eliminated, while responsibility for the services that they currently provide would be transferred to local governments. The Interior Minister would be authorized to establish guidelines governing all aspects of the change.

Burial services would be provided by municipal companies, which would be set up by local authorities. The new law would also allow municipal governments to institute a new fee to cover the costs of providing religious services.

The bill would allow the religious councils to retain their authority until such time as they are replaced by the municipal burial companies. All of the religious councils' legal and property-related rights and obligations would be transferred to local governments.

Abolishing local religious councils was one of Yisrael Beiteinu's campaign promises to its voters ahead of the last elections, along with other laws related to separation of religion and state.

Early on in the current government's term, party chair Avigdor Lieberman worked to advance a number of these laws, but was compelled to put off dealing with them due to the restrictions of the governing coalition, which also includes the ultra-Orthodox parties.

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