The right-wing Orthodox Jewish Home is no home for Jews, and Israelis should not vote for the party, Shas party spiritual leader and former Sephardic chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef said during his weekly sermon on Saturday.
“They call them the ‘Jewish Home’ but this is not a home for Jews; it is a home of goyim [gentiles],” Yosef said. “They want to uproot the Torah, to institute civil marriage. It’s forbidden to vote for them. These are religious people? Anyone who votes for them denies the Torah.”
Yosef’s comments came after Ayelet Shaked, who’s fifth on the Jewish Home party’s list, alluded last week to the need to institute some form of civil marriage in Israel. The Jewish Home has also been outspoken in supporting easier conversion to Judaism, stating that it would seek to wrest control of the process from the ultra-Orthodox after the elections.
“They are all wicked, haters of Torah and mitzvot. They want to institute public transportation on Shabbat,” Yosef charged. “A Jew who wants to marry won’t have to go to the rabbinate — have you heard? How can they call themselves religious? How can we be complicit in this?”
In response, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett called Yosef an “important spiritual leader” whom “we revere and respect,” and said that the Jewish Home, whose purpose is to be “a bridge between sectors of society,” has been attacked from all sides, so “we’re probably on the right path.”
Yosef’s comments came after a scrap late last week between Bennett and Shas’s leader, Interior Minister Eli Yishai.
On Wednesday, Bennett wrote on his Facebook page that, after the elections, his party would “demand control over conversions.”
There are hundreds of thousands of Israelis who want and need conversions, but the system that is supposed to help them has become corrupt, he added.
“It turns out the Jewish Home doesn’t really want to safeguard Judaism,” Yishai said in response.
If the conversion process is supervised by the Jewish Home party there will be “mixed marriages between Jews and non-Jews,” he warned, adding that traditional and observant Jewish voters should therefore avoid the party.
While acknowledging that there might be some problems with the current conversion system, Yishai pointed out that over the past decade, it was headed by Rabbi Haim Druckman, a former MK for the Jewish Home’s earlier incarnation, the National Religious Party.
Ultra-Orthodox rabbis in the Chief Rabbinate have been vehemently fighting Druckman-led initiatives whose purpose is to ease the conversion process. Some rabbis have even advocated the annulment of Orthodox conversions that to their mind aren’t sufficiently stringent.
In addition to conversion, religious authorities control a number of key life-cycle events in Israel, including marriage and burial ceremonies, which must be conducted according to Jewish, Christian or Muslim tradition.
Aaron Kalman contributed to this report.