Thanks to the newly appointed Justice Minister of Israel, Daniel Friedmann (you may recall how he became Justice Minister), yesterday 15 new judges were appointed to Israel’s rabbinical court. Israel’s religious movements have religious courts that dictate certain social rules including marriage and divorce. The court has 100 active rabbis and they are appointed for life. Of the 15 new judges who were appointed today, 12 were ultra-Orthodox and the other 3 were what Israelis call religious Zionists referring to Modern Orthodox Israelis with a nationalist ideology. According to Ha’aretz, the majority of the 15 are well connected as well, which may indicate how they got these plum positions.
Of course, no non-Orthodox rabbis were appointed, and even the the religious Zionists are up in arms because the ultra-Orthodox have a far more strict understanding of the observance of laws. Women’s groups, and I am not speaking just about feminist groups, but also women’s organizations that focus on the problem of agunot – women whose husbands will not grant a divorce and who remain in marital limbo until the men do give the divorce – are calling this a black day.
Did Friedmann have to do this? No, he didn’t. He could have waited – the appointment committee has been sitting on these appointments for 4 years because they could not agree as to who should be appointed to the court. Friedmann arrives and END OF LOGJAM! Except that Friedmann has allowed the appointment of rabbis who do not represent the people. He had the nerve to issue a release claiming that the appointments were varied, as if people are stupid.
Not only are people not stupid but there are serious rumblings of rejecting the entire halachic marriage system in Israel if it means that women will potentially be unfairly treated. They are absolutely right. First of all, it is an incredible shame that Israel, the Jewish state, cannot be more open to non-Orthodox streams. This affects a a variety of interpretations of laws including those of conversion. Second, and no less critical is the issue of divorce. Simply put, women should refrain from being married by the rabbinate in Israel or any rabbinate that has not clearly and fairly addressed the issue of agunot. If they would like to be stringent about divorcing, let these rabbis marry each other.
Did I mention that the new Justice Minister, Daniel Friedmann, is a fucking putz?
Here is a clear-headed editorial from the Jerusalem Post about this tragic farce.