The pressure of the ultra-Orthodox political machine met with little resistance
Ritual Bath Law passes, Jewish Agency plays Haredi parties' game
The discriminatory Ritual Bath bill proposed by MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni and his colleagues, which will ban the non-Orthodox movements from using Israel's publicly funded mikva'ot for conversion ceremonies was formally passed into law on Monday night, July 25.
Uri Regev 28/07/2016 16:10
A mikva, a bath for Jewish ritual immersions
In June, we wrote [link] that "While the issue at hand is the use of Israel's public ritual baths, what is at stake is much greater. The erosive pressure of the ultra-Orthodox politicians (who have no respect whatsoever for either the rule of law or the civil judiciary) was met with little resistance, if not outright surrender by the Government."
As MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) rightly pointed out during the Knesset deliberations, "mikva'ot are not tainted in any way if they are used by non-Orthodox Jews." It is apparent that the religious integrity of the mikva'ot had nothing to do with MK Gafni's proposal - it was only about power and exclusion of the non-Orthodox streams.
This law was designed specifically to castrate the Supreme Court ruling that ordered the State of Israel to allow the non-Orthodox Jewish streams to use the State's publicly funded ritual baths for their conversions. It is being used as a weapon by the ultra-Orthodox political parties in the battle against non-Orthodox Judaism. To our great sorrow, their Government Coalition partners succumbed and agreed to erode Israel's rule of law and spit in the face of Diaspora Jewry.
Still, the Attorney General stood up for justice and equality by unequivocally opposing the hateful legislation demanded by MK Rabbi Gafni and his colleagues, so long as there is no alternative available for non-Orthodox converts. In order to avoid the opposition of the Attorney General to the new law, the Government proposed that the Jewish Agency build 2-4 mikvaot for the use of the progressive movements in Israel.
Unfortunately, the Jewish Agency is playing the ultra-Orthodox parties' and their partners' ugly political game, lending support to their boycott of non-Orthodox Judaism, which is the majority of World Jewry.
The Coalition Government's deal with the Jewish Agency for Israel is extremely problematic, much like the Western Wall Agreement, in which the Jewish Agency also played a central role. Both are based upon the principle of 'Separate but equal,' which was declared in the 1950's as an illegitimate approach to resolving questions of civil rights for minorities. Unfortunately, the Jewish Agency is playing the ultra-Orthodox parties' and their partners' ugly political game, lending support to their boycott of non-Orthodox Judaism, which is the majority of World Jewry.
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said that it was “unfortunate” that the law was passed before a solution for the progressive Jewish movements and their conversion ceremonies could be found. His criticism, sadly, was not on the law's merits, but rather on the timing of the Knesset vote; and he reiterated his commitment to have his Agency construct mikva'ot for the non-Orthodox streams.