The Bitter Taste of Victory
by Rabbi Pamela Frydman
On August 31st, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled on a matter brought by the Reform and Conservative Movements, Women of the Wall, Hiddush and Yisrael Hofshit regarding whether to require the government to adhere to the Kotel agreement.
Click HERE for full article
This guest post was written by Rabbi Pam Frydman, Coordinator of the Beyond Genocide Campaign of the Board of Rabbis of Northern California and Chair of Rabbis for Religious Freedom and Equality in Israel.
When we let ourselves experience the hatred between Ultra-Orthodox and non-Orthodox, it is clear that Israel and our Jewish future are at risk. Anyone who thinks otherwise what would do well to think again. Without the Jewish lobby in North America, I shudder to think of Israel’s future in a few hundred years.
Some refer to the hatred between us as sinat hinam, but the price is actually quite high. To improve our future, we need a different narrative that teaches our children that there are lots of ways to be Jewish and those who observe differently are also Jews. If we teach our children to love the stranger, we can also teach them to love fellow Jews.
On August 31st, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled on a matter brought by the Reform and Conservative Movements, Women of the Wall, Hiddush and Yisrael Hofshit regarding whether to require the government to adhere to the Kotel agreement that provides for a dignified egalitarian prayer space and a second space for women who wish to pray separately with tallit, tefillin and reading from a sefer Torah. The government negotiated the agreement, signed it and then rescinded and froze it, because Ultra-Orthodox members of Knesset threatened to leave the government if the agreement is implemented.
During the August 31 hearing, the Supreme Court ordered the Prime Minister to reconsider the freeze and gave the government 14 days to agree to unfreeze the agreement or show whether there is a legal method to force the State to uphold the agreement.
Why are the Ultra-Orthodox frightened by a few Conservative and Reform leaders and Women of the Wall? Because their role at the Kotel would spell the end of the Ultra-Orthodox monopoly over publicly decided religious matters. The Ultra-Orthodox force the government to pay salaries to non-Orthodox rabbis through the Department of Sports and Culture rather than through the Rabbinate. They avoid convening (administrative) Rabbinic Councils to which non-Orthodox and women have been elected or appointed. But they cannot avoid jointly administering the Kotel without risking that the Kotel will be administered without them. That is why the August 31 Supreme Court decision represents such a threat to for them and a victory for pluralism.
The encouragingly innovative opinion
of Justice Anat Baron
The Court has consistently, for decades, rejected petitions to order the state to institute civil marriage and/or allow non-Orthodox religious marriage and/or recognize marriages performed outside the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate. The recurring argument is that the address for the solution is the Knesset, rather than the Court.
Since Israel's 1992 Basic Law: 'Human Dignity and Liberty' was enacted, which allowed the Supreme Court to annul laws that contradict these fundamental principles, the Court has pointed to the "grandfather clause" which states that the validity of laws enacted prior to the Basic Law would not be affected even if they contradict the binding principles set out therein.
Nevertheless, the ruling included the interesting and encouragingly innovative opinion of Justice Anat Baron. She hinted that perhaps the time had come to set an expiration date for cases of discriminatory laws. Unlike her colleagues, she expressed clear and open support for the rights of the petitioners and of Israelis in general to marry freely in their country. In her submitted opinion, Justice Baron wrote about relations between religion and state in general and the right to marry in particular:
... An indefinite "encirclement" of the laws of personal status from constitutional scrutiny, through the provision of the preservation of laws, is difficult. Justice Prof. Aharon Barak emphasized that this creates an anomaly that is not desirable in our legal system: "... Two sets of laws - old and new - exist side by side without one bringing about the change or cancellation of the other." This is the product of a political compromise. However, it creates a constitutional anomaly. This is not a healthy situation for a legal system. Modern democratic constitutions do not include a provision on the preservation of [old] laws. On the contrary, they are based on... recognition that the present and the future are good for us. This has not been the [trajectory of] Israel's [legal] development...
Hiddush in the Media
- Could a 1924 British Mandate law kill the Western Wall pluralistic pavilion?, Aug. 31, 2017, Times of Israel
- ‘Game Of Chicken’ On Kotel Deal, September 6, 2017, New York Jewish Week
- State pushes Supreme Court to reject Shabbat public transportation petition, September 5, 2017, Jerusalem Online
- New Campaign reopens debate on Civil Marriage in Israel, September 4, 2017, Jerusalem Post