Regev Responds

It is high time for the Ministry of Religious Services to heed the AG!

Hiddush fighting for gender equality

It has been 4 years since the Attorney General ordered that adequate representation be given to women on Israel's Religious Councils. However, the reality has not changed, and the composition of the councils has not been reconstituted. Of the Religious Service Minister's 120 appointees, only one was a woman.

Jewish woman praying, source: WikipediaJewish woman praying, source: Wikipedia

Hiddush has been dealing with various aspects of the battle for gender equality in Israel since its inception. One of the organization's earliest areas of focus was the issue of gender discrimination in Israel's 130 religious councils.

Through our efforts, progress has been marked and the Ministry of Religious Services has gradually and partially changed its policy. While we are satisfied with this direction, Hiddush refuses to settle for the pace of these necessary changes, nor for the bottom line. We continue to monitor the status of appointments of women to both the Religious Councils and to senior positions, and Hiddush has demonstrated the Ministry's non-compliance with the mandatory principle of equitable representation to both Knesset Members and the Attorney General.

This resulted with revolutionary unequivocal instructions from the Attorney General, requiring that at least 30% of the Religious Councils be comprised of women, as well as that affirmative action be applied when appointing senior functionaries. By law, following the 2018 municipal elections, the make-up of all religious councils in Israel should now be reconstituted. In an important session of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality was dedicated to this matter, in light of the pending reconstitution of the Religious Councils.

Out of 60 religious councils whose terms expired since 2018, and of which the Minister of Religious Services has appointed "appointees" to run the affairs of these expired councils, only 1 out of 120 appointees was a woman. That single appointment was an unpaid position, and the appointee was not authorized to sign on behalf of the religious council.

At the Knesset Committee session, we stressed that such non-performance of a clear guideline handed down by the Attorney General is a sad statement and bad omen for future compliance. The Attorney General and the Knesset Committee must closely monitor and ascertain the implementation of the critically important principle of gender equality, especially when it comes to these Religious Councils, which provide many services to women.

Together with other organizations, Hiddush appealed to the Deputy Attorney General and the Minister of Religious Services to act in accordance with the guidelines so that there is a gender balance on the Religious Councils. We believe that integrating women into the Religious Councils is not an esoteric or "ideological" requirement. Kashrut certification, burial, marriage, etc. - all of these services are intended for both men and women. The mikvah (ritual bath) service is for women only. A reality in which the body responsible for providing Jewish religious services in Israel completely excludes half of the Jewish public - is a serious failure.

Hiddush has asserted that we will continue advocating and, if necessary, litigating to ensure that gender equality on Israel's Religious Councils is fully realized. The ultra-Orthodox Shas Party's control of the Ministry of Religious Services poses a threat to the values ​​of democracy and gender equality. We will not let this matter of injustice rest.

Take Action!