More than a decade after founding a Jerusalem college designed for the ultra-Orthodox, the oldest daughter of the late Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is tackling her next goal: the Israeli presidency.
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Adina Bar Shalom is considering announcing her candidacy for president and is in the process of looking into getting the support she needs to run as the Shas pick, Maariv reported Wednesday.
Bar Shalom herself was noncommittal about the prospect of becoming president when Shimon Peres' seven-year term ends this summer. "I'm not belittling that concept, but I haven't yet spoken to anyone," she told the Israeli daily.
The approval of Yosef, who died in October, was crucial to the success of the pathbreaking Haredi College of Jerusalem, which Bar Shalom founded in 2001 to better educate ultra-Orthodox women and improve their prospects in the workforce. It is now open to men as well, though classes are sex-segregated.
"Her resounding success has made her a leader in Israeli society," the Jerusalem Foundation says on the website of the college, which it helps fund.
But though Bar Shalom, who is 69, is scion to a revered figure in the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox world who wielded a great deal of power in Israeli politics, Shas support for a woman as president – even a woman whose father was Ovadia Yosef - is by no means guaranteed.
Shas does not select female candidates for its Knesset slate, and that's no accident.
"A woman cannot serve in the Knesset, according to our outlook," former Shas MK Nissim Dahan has reportedly said. Reflecting a view that is common among ultra-Orthodox leaders, he adding that women "cannot be exposed" by being placed in the public eye.
Bar Shalom needs the signatures of 10 Knesset members to declare her candidacy, and is seeking support from Shas MKs as well as those from other parties, Maariv reported.
Bar Shalom would not confirm the report, saying: "I'm not responding for now. That's the most correct thing to do from my perspective at this moment."
Shas was equally noncommittal, with one party leader telling Maariv that if Bar Shalom were to officially submit her candidacy, "we will bring it to the Council of Sages for a decision." The council, which was previously headed by Yosef, is the party's religious advisory board.