Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Cheshvan 5766 - November 30, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Newspaper Expose Reveals:
Jerusalem Kashrus Sacrificed to Sharon's Political Plans

by Betzalel Kahn

Dozens of Likud Members Appointed Heads of Religious Councils — Including Jerusalem — During Past Two Years

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his son MK Omri Sharon gained control over every focal point of power at the religious authorities across the country by appointing Likud Center members and other Likud members to head them. Probably most of these appointed functionaries will follow Sharon into his new party Kadima, and that is apparently one of the sources of support that he is counting on. This includes Jerusalem where Sharon appointed religious Likud members who destroyed the Jerusalem kashrus organizations that had been built up over many years.

A recent investigative report in Yediot Achronot refers to these appointments as Israel's "biggest political job arena." According to the report, once the religious authorities came under the full charge of the Prime Minister's Office under the dismantling of the Ministry of Religions that was part of the coalition agreement with Shinui, Sharon and his son took control. After the majority of religious authorities were dismantled, Ariel Sharon and his son appointed new administrations when they were reorganized.

In recent years major changes have taken place at the religious authorities with the stated goal to streamline the system and "prevent the politicization" of the religious authorities. Yet Yediot Achronot reveals that funding has not decreased but is scheduled to increase, and Likud Center members are constantly receiving appointments—with the Attorney General's backing. A disproportionate amount of the religious councils' budget always went to salaries and not to religious services, and this sad situation has not changed.

The newspaper cites a long list of appointments of individuals unsuited to the task, such as Amram Benizri, a green grocer from Bnei Brak, who was placed in charge of the religious council in Kiryat Gat. He now receives a monthly salary of NIS 9,500 plus vehicle expenses. In Kiryat Bialik Arnon Sadeh of Shinui was personally appointed by the Prime Minister as part of a deal between Shinui and the Likud. It is amazing that Shinui still enjoys a reputation in Israel as an uncorrupt party.

The report quotes a chareidi MK saying, "Omri [Sharon] is behind the appointments. He looks out for his father and makes the appointments for him. He does not appoint only Center members but close associates who work for him, just as Yitzhak Kaufman appointed his close associates to jobs in Jerusalem. In practice they made a large portion of the religious authorities into vote contractors."

The Arrangements Law for 2006, which was recently tabled in the Knesset, states that all of the local authorities must be reorganized by June 2006. Every local authority will have two figures in charge, including one paid position. Likud figures claim that Sharon only makes appointments from "the chareidi group" within Likud, which is comprised of fringe chareidi elements tied to focal points of power in the Likud. "There is no tender, no locating committee, no restrictions, nothing. There is only one criterion: that they pass Sharon's decisions in the Likud and support him," one Likud Center member is quoted as saying.

One Center member who received a job was Assaf Atzur, now director of the Jerusalem Religious Council. Yediot Achronot refers to him as a member of "the Jerusalem group" of Likud Center members who formerly supported Netanyahu. "His appointment, like that of Council Chairman Moshe Ausditcher and his assistant Chagai Cohen, both Likud members, is a part of the deal Omri Sharon promised the chareidi group within Likud," reads the report.

A Center member told Yediot Achronot how the deal for the appointment of this group to the Jerusalem Religious Council was carried out, a deal that later brought Sharon victory in several votes held in the Likud Center. "They promised the Likud chareidim that if they support Arik Sharon in the Center elections they would receive appointments from top to bottom. They also made a lot of money by taking control of lands that belonged to the religious councils. When the Center members came to vote on postponing the primaries we asked them, `Did you vote with us against the Disengagement?' They replied, `We got something that's impossible to vote against.' They simply voted in favor of Arik Sharon as a single, unified entity, thereby bringing about his victory in the Center."

The list of cities where the Prime Minister's backers appointed their supporters to ranking positions at the religious councils includes Eilat, Lachish, Kadima, Gedera, Atlit, Netanya, Nes Tziona, Kiryat Ono, Even Yehuda, Ohr Yehuda, Natzrat Illit, Rechovot, Bnei Brak, Beit She'an, Kiryat Yam, Ofakim, Rosh Ha'ayin and Yehud.

According to MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni, "The Likud, with both of its camps and the Likud Center, has been trying in recent years to take control of religious life in the State of Israel, including religious services, appointments to the religious councils, rabbonim, dayonim, etc. The government's recent decision to make appointments around the country, which are inevitably political appointments, the decision to reduce the pay given to rabbonim, who they also want to lower to the rank of clerks, the Justice Minister's decision not to convene the Committee for the Appointment of Dayanim unless they appoint at least one of the candidates she wants—there is no precedent for a secular party engaging in such issues so obsessively and for political reasons.

"The reduction of the budget for religious services, which was slashed by more than 50 percent under the NRP-Shinui government, was halted upon UTJ's entry into the coalition and the budget more than doubled. The government's [recent] decision to require the local authorities to transfer their share to the religious councils will alleviate some of the suffering of the rabbonim and the religious council workers until a permanent solution is reached and the debts are settled."


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.