Regev Responds

The Israeli public yearns for freedom of religion and equality

This week: just the latest in religious discrimination

Next week, Hiddush's annual Israel Religion & State Index will be published, and it will become clear just how much the gap between the public's will and the policies of Israel's elected official's has increased.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews, source: WikipediaUltra-Orthodox Jews, source: Wikipedia

Dear Friends,

The Israeli public yearns for the realization of the promise enshrined in Israel's Declaration of Independence for freedom of religion and equality. Not only does Israel's political leadership refuse to realize this, but it perpetually surrenders these values and freedoms to the ultra-Orthodox political establishment, be it in policy, in budget allocations, or in legislation.

This issue took center stage again last week at the Supreme Court when government representatives tried to defend the "freezing" (non-implementation) of the government's Western Wall agreement. They attempted to justify why freedom of worship and equality for all Jews shouldn't be allowed at the Western Wall. More recently, the government submitted a response to a petition that will be heard by the Court next week regarding public transportation on Shabbat, which was submitted by Hiddush and other partnering organizations. The state is arguing that there is no real need for public transportation on Shabbat - and that the state does not intend (nor is it required) to conduct a survey of the public's needs in this matter.

Further examples of the fundamentalist religious establishment's corruption came to light this week.

Not one woman was appointed to this post... despite the Court having ordered that women should not be discriminated against as kashrut supervisors

It became known that in the last two years, during which 178 kashrut inspectors were appointed by the Rabbinate, not one woman was appointed to this post... despite the Court having ordered that women should not be discriminated against as kashrut supervisors, and despite the Chief Rabbinate having confirmed that this is not prohibited.

Also, the owner of the Jerusalem tea house Halitatea was surprised to learn he would have to pay more to keep his kashrut certificate from the Chief Rabbinate because his new business partner is of Russian descent. The kashrut supervisor told him: "I don't like the looks of him, he's Russian, I don't trust him."

And this week it also came to light that the only mohel in Mitzpeh Ramon, after agreeing to perform a circumcision for a newborn on Shabbat, refused to keep his word because he claimed that the child was not Jewish! Why did he refuse? Apparently, the mother underwent an Orthodox conversion during her IDF services but does not observe Shabbat, and the mohel proclaimed his doubt of her Jewish 'status' and that of her children. The parents were forced to cancel the brit and could not get another a mohel because it was Shabbat. They suffered from both injury and insult because of the cancellation of their event and because of the doubt of their Judaism.

Such wrongs occur every week. Some are publicized and others do not reach the public's attention, but the lesson is always the same: The time has come to realize full freedom of religion and equality in Israel!

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