Regev Responds

Our legal advocacy covers the whole spectrum from birth to death

Hiddush’s effective advocacy from an ultra-Orthodox perspective

On Dec. 13th, 2020, the following news appeared in an ultra-Orthodox news portal, describing their perspective on Hiddush’s success in overcoming decades of Orthodox control over military burials in Israel, which historically excluded secular and non-Orthodox alternatives for families of fallen soldiers:

IDF ceremony to honor the fallen, source: WikipediaIDF ceremony to honor the fallen, source: Wikipedia

“After a long battle by Hiddush to advance reforms in burial, the Chief Military Rabbinate ‘buckled’ and it was agreed that the IDF would change its rules after 72 years, in a way that will allow for non-Orthodox religious motifs in military burial ceremonies.

Under this reform and and the new IDF rules, it’ll now be possible to introduce non-Orthodox religious motifs, whether for a military funeral held in a military cemetery or for a military funeral held in a civilian cemetery.

Following Hiddush’s petition to the Supreme Court, the IDF now even allows non-Orthodox ‘rabbis’ to officiate in military funeral ceremonies.

Sources in the Military Rabbinate told 0404 News: ‘It is sad to see how the Chief Military Rabbi, Brigadier General rabbi Eyal Karim is suffering loss after loss. Under his watch, extremist organizations are destroying the [religious] status quo, which has served the IDF throughout all the years of its existence regarding halakhic issues, such as coed service, kashrut, military burial, and more. He claims to be independent and unaffected by pressures, but the actions and announcements of the New Israel Fund[1] are proof, time and time again, of the destructive effect of these pressures on IDF [halakhic] rulings.

It should be remembered that the vast majority of the IDF is traditional and religious[2], and this hurts a lot of soldiers, desecrating the sanctity of military cemeteries. It is a pity that Rabbi Karim does not seek assistance from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and lends a hand to precedents that harm Torah-true Judaism in the IDF and then in the whole country.’”

It indeed required a long battle to reach this point, illustrating what we wrote in the last newsletter [“Legal Advocacy is Not for Sprint Runners”]. It was only recently, following repeated communications threatening further legal action if the IDF did not abide by its commitment to the Supreme Court to change its burial rules in response to our petition, that it finally published the new rules.

To most of Israel’s population civil-pluralistic burial is not available within reasonable distance from their families’ residences.

Hiddush’s legal advocacy covers the whole spectrum from birth to death. We successfully intervened to overturn the refusal of Interior Ministry officers to register the family name of a cohabiting couple because the male partner’s last name was “Cohen”. This couple had refused to marry via the Rabbinate but wanted to make sure that their child, when born, would bear their joint name. Hiddush also took on a similar case for a same-sex couple.

On the other side of the spectrum, Hiddush has a wide docket of pluralistic burial cases. Most recently – we were approached by a pluralistic NGO in Tel Aviv and another one in Ramat HaSharon that requested our assistance in obtaining a license to operate a civil burial society in the face of the Ministry of Religious Services failure to abide by the 1996 Alternative Civil Burial Law and its awarding civil burial licenses to Orthodox burial organizations and Religious Councils! We are currently litigating a case in the Supreme Court against the Ministry of Religious Services concerning their refusal to allow, even if temporarily, the offering of civil burial services in Kibbutzim, since to most of Israel’s population civil-pluralistic burial is not available within reasonable distance from their families’ residences. The situation in metropolitan Tel Aviv is another battle we have started that will probably lead to yet another Supreme Court petition in the near future.

These are just examples of Hiddush’s extensive legal advocacy program, that addresses gender equality, service in the IDF, Shabbat, Kashrut etc. – touching on sensitive and key areas in the political arena and demonstrating the great importance of Hiddush’s legal capacity, especially since the political arena may not be any more favorable to the cause of religious freedom and equality after the next election cycle.


Hiddush's clarifications:

  1. The article identifies Hiddush with the NIF, though NIF has decreased its support for religious freedom programs and ceased providing any financial support to Hiddush.
  2. A common unfounded claim in political and religious circles fighting against pluralism and religious freedom. If anything – the religious minority in the IDF is smaller than in the country as a whole, since the Haredi refuse to serve. As to the traditional circles, see Hiddush annual Religion and State Indexes demonstrating that most of them support religious freedom and choice.

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