A key cabinet committee lent its support this week to a bill that would allow, for the first time, for a woman to become director general of Israel’s rabbinic court system.
According to current law, only recognized rabbis or religious court judges are eligible to apply for the top administrative post in the court system, a demand that limits the applicant pool to men due to the fact that the state does not recognize non-Orthodox rabbis or religious jurists.
But according to the explanatory portion of the new bill, which won the approval of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, “The position of director general of the rabbinic courts, like the director general of the [civil] courts, is not a judicial post and does not necessarily demand broad halachic [Jewish legal] knowledge,” Haaretz reported on Monday.
“The current legal situation does not allow the appointment of a woman as director general of the rabbinic courts, even if the woman emphatically possesses the skills and experience for the job. That’s because only men are qualified for the rabbinate or rabbinic judiciary,” the bill states.
The bill was presented in two versions to the ministerial committee, submitted by MKs Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), Shuli Moalem (Jewish Home) and Gila Gamliel (Likud).
It follows an attempt by Atara Kenigsberg, head of the Ruth and Emanuel Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women at Bar Ilan University, to apply to the director general position.
Kenigsberg petitioned the High Court of Justice after her application was summarily denied without a meaningful examination of her candidacy, Haaretz reported. The court ordered a change in the law.
“For parallel positions in other religious courts in Israel, such as the Sharia [Muslim legal] courts, the law allows appointing women as directors general,” Kenigsberg told the daily.