The Central Elections Committee fined Shas NIS 7,500 ($2,150) on Monday afternoon and ordered the ultra-Orthodox party to stop handing out charms and candles promising protection against coronavirus at polling stations, following a petition filed by the Labor-Gesher-Meretz alliance.
“We filed a petition this morning to the Central Elections Committee against the distribution of prohibited items by Shas at polling stations,” the Labor party tweeted on its account. “The laws and norms with respect to elections in Israel have become no more than a recommendation for those for whom democracy is just a tool to accumulate power.”
At polling stations in Jerusalem prior to the committee’s ruling, Shas activists were handing out the printed charm with a prayer for protection against “Corona and every illness and pestilence.” The same item was reportedly being distributed at numerous polling stations around the country.
On its outside cover, the booklet quotes from Psalm 106, “Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was checked.” while inside, Psalm 106, “A prayer of Moses the Man of God,” is printed in its entirety.
During April’s election, the ultra-Orthodox party handed out boxes of candles adorned with a picture of the late Shas leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, as well as flyers promising that those who brought an additional voter to the polling booths would be honored with a letter in a Torah scroll to be deposited at the Western Wall.
On Army Radio on Sunday evening, Shas leader Aryeh Deri was asked about the legality of the charms, and claimed that everything Shas was doing to encourage voters had been checked and approved by legal authorities.
However, election laws state prohibits “anyone soliciting a person to vote or to abstain from voting, be it in general or for a specific list, by swearing, cursing, ostracizing, boycotting, promising a blessing, or giving a charm… including any object that certain members of the public may consider as being able to benefit or harm them.”
Sue Surkes contributed to this report.