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2 Av 5760 - August 3, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Beilin Would Dismantle Religious Affairs Ministry

by Betzalel Kahn

Minister of Justice and now also of Religious Affairs Yossi Beilin has formulated a detailed plan to dismantle the Religious Affairs Ministry.

Beilin claims that many of the activities of the Ministry of Religious Affairs overlap those of other ministries, resulting in double financial support. "For example, yeshivos also receive support from the Education Ministry; the building of mikvo'os, by the Housing Ministry. This calls for considerable, intricate coordination between the Interior Ministry, the Housing Ministry and the Religious Affairs Ministry," notes Beilin.

Minister Beilin proposes a two stage plan for the rapid dismantling of the Religious Affairs Ministry and transfer of its departments to other ministries:

The department for institutions and organizations will be transferred to the Education Ministry in the first stage. Minimum income insurance for yeshiva talmidim will be transferred to the National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi.) The Information Branch will first be transferred to the Culture Ministry, and will later be absorbed by existing units in the Culture Ministry. Rabbinical courts and the courts of the Shiite and Druse communities will first be transferred to the Justice Ministry. In the second stage, joint administration of the various courts in order to improve efficiency and save operating costs will be examined.

The Nationwide Center for the Development of Sacred Sites will be transferred at the first stage to the Office of the Prime Minster or to the Interior Ministry. At a second stage, the possibility of expanding the Center's activities to include sites important to other religions will be investigated.

The Chief Rabbinate will be initially transferred to the Interior Ministry. In the second stage, it is suggested that efforts be made to replace the two chief rabbis with one. According to the proposal, the same procedure will pertain to the chief rabbis of the cities and other local authorities.

The Branch of the Religious Councils: In the first stage the construction issues of the following departments will be transferred to the Housing Ministry: the Department for the Development of Religious Structures, Mikvo'os and Eruvim, and the Synagogue Department, and the construction issues of the Religious Services Department will be transferred to the Interior Ministry. It is recommended that the Department for Burial Services and the Rabbinate Department be transferred to the Interior Ministry. In the second stage, the Rabbinate Department will be divided into two: Settlement rabbis and marriage registration.

Concomitantly, Minister Beilin notes in his proposal that a suggestion has been made to consider a law proposed by Rabbi Moshe Gafni, according to which the religious councils will be replaced by a Jewish Religious Service Authority. This authority will concentrate on the building, development and maintenance of religious services in conjunction with the chief rabbis and the municipal rabbis.

A ministerial committee will be established to facilitate transfer of the departments to the appropriate government ministries, to work along with a unit in the Office of the Prime Minster for control, supervision and inter-religion cooperation. It will be headed by a senior administrator from the Religious Affairs Ministry.

In response to Beilin's proposal, Rabbi Gafni said: "I favor dismantle of the Religious Affairs Ministry. But the initiative as well as particulars of the transfer must be determined by the chareidi representatives, so that religious services in the state won't be adversely affected."

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