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Prominent national-religious rabbis call for protests against government

Statement signed by rabbis Chaim Druckman, Dov Lior charges legislation backed by government on conversion, kashrut and Western Wall will ‘endanger the essence of the state’

Rabbi Chaim Druckman attends the campaign launch of the right-wing Yamina party, ahead of the Israeli general elections, February 12, 2020.(Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Rabbi Chaim Druckman attends the campaign launch of the right-wing Yamina party, ahead of the Israeli general elections, February 12, 2020.(Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A group of prominent rabbis affiliated with the national-religious movement have issued a call for protest against the government over its policies on religion and state.

After a meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday evening, the group released a statement on Wednesday calling “on the public to unite and protest against the attempt to make the state a state of all its citizens.”

The rabbis lamented the government’s planned reforms on conversion and kosher certification, as well as indications that it will work to bring back a compromise deal on egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall.

“We returned to Eretz Israel because we want a Jewish state and not a state of all its citizens,” they wrote in a statement. “Now the government is promoting a series of laws that will endanger the essence of the state and change its identity.”

The statement was signed by a number of significant figures in the national-religious movement, including Rabbi Chaim Druckman, head of the Ohr Etzion Yeshiva; Rabbi Dov Lior, former chief rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba; former MK Rabbi Eliezer Waldman; and Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of Safed.

A large right-wing rally is planned for next week in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.

Kiryat Arba’s Chief Rabbi Dov Lior (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Druckman, one of the most prominent national-religious rabbinic figures, was once aligned with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party. But he broke away when it split from what is now called the Religious Zionism party, and came out strongly against Bennett’s new government.

“This government is entirely against the will of the people as directly reflected by the past elections,” Druckman said in a June statement also signed by other national-religious rabbis. “We must try and do everything so that this government is not formed.”

The rabbis’ ire is directed in part at the major kosher certification reform pushed by Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana, which would establish a series of private kosher certification agencies that will be required to uphold religious standards established by the Chief Rabbinate, instead of only the rabbinate itself issuing kosher certifications.

They are also angered by Kahana’s plans to reform conversion laws in Israel by allowing local city rabbis to set up conversion courts instead of just the Chief Rabbinate. The third issue of concern is the potential return to a 2016 compromise deal with liberal streams of Judaism on the Western Wall brokered and then abandoned by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Bennett has not publicly endorsed a return to the Western Wall deal, but members of his government have indicated that a compromise is in the works. On Wednesday, President Isaac Herzog met with representatives of Reform and Conservative groups to discuss the deal and the ongoing tensions at the site.

Kahana has recently received additional security over death threats made to him linked to his push for religious reforms.

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