The Central Elections Committee on Sunday ordered an ultra-Orthodox party to remove from campaign material references to blessings that will be bestowed on its voters.
The United Torah Judaism faction was instructed to change the text of a published announcement that promised “sons, long life, and wealth” to those who vote for the party in the coming general elections.
The missive, titled “A holy calling” and signed by 28 leading ultra-Orthodox rabbis affiliated with the party, was recently published in community newspapers.
The Hiddush nonprofit organization, which campaigns for religious freedom and equality, said in a statement on Sunday that committee chairman and Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein had responded to its concerns over the wording of the call for votes.
“The judge clarified that even great Torah scholars are not above the law,” said Hiddush director Uri Regev. “Even they can’t hand out blessings” in exchange for votes.
Rubinstein suggested changing the text from “blessed with” to “merited with.” Another sentence that had the phrase “will be blessed from the source of all blessings” should be altered to “will merit all goodness from the source of all bounty,” Rubinstein ordered.
In its petition Hiddush argued that religious voters can be swayed by their belief in the power of rabbis to bestow blessings.
Under Israeli electoral law it is forbidden to coax voters by invoking oaths, curses, divestment, boycotts, vows or promises to give a blessing. Breaking the law carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison or a fine, Hiddush said.
Two weeks ago Hiddush successfully petitioned against the ultra-Orthodox Shas party and forced it to remove the option of receiving a blessing from the faction’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, from a smartphone application it distributed, the statement said.