Israel – The directors of two religious women’s organizations sent a letter to Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu today, ahead of the coalition talks with Shas and United Torah Judaism, asking him to restrict the jurisdiction of rabbinical courts to divorce cases only.
Attorney Batya Kahana-Dror, director of Mavoi Satum (Dead End), and attorney Ricki Shapira, director of Kolech (Your Voice), sent copies of the letter to Netanyahu, the heads of the Knesset factions, the coalition negotiators and every member of the new Knesset.
Kahana-Dror and Shapira wrote that expanding the rabbinical courts’ authority as part of the negotiations to forge the next government would harm the status of women and increase the number of agunot – “chained women” – whose husbands refuse to grant them a divorce.
The two NGO heads also appealed to Netanyahu to appoint women to the committee responsible for choosing rabbinical judges.
“Some of the injustices suffered by women are a result of the rabbinical judges – their point of view, character and quality,” they wrote. “Appointing women to the committee would increase the likelihood that responsible judges are chosen.”
They asked that Netanyahu not surrender to Shas and UTJ’s demand to expand the rabbinical courts’ authority “in exchange for [the haredi parties] agreeing to Yisrael Beiteinu’s bill for civil unions [between people who are not recognized as Jews].”
The end result, they said, “would turn most of the public, who are interested in marrying in accordance with Jewish law, into hostages of the rabbinical courts system.”
When asked why women should not be appointed to the committee that selects rabbinical judges, UTJ chairman Ya’acov Litzman said: “Because we need to maintain what has been customary and acceptable for many years, and not change anything.”
Shas had this to say: “All matters of religion and state will be determined solely in accordance with Halacha. Anyone who asks that politics be introduced into matters of Halacha is better off saying it publicly and not covering himself in an inappropriate cloak.”