Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana on Thursday appointed a woman to head a local religious council for only the second time in Israel’s history — the first such appointment in 17 years.
Haya Kliger, 71, will lead the Sde Ya’akov-Jezreel Valley Council, which she has served on since 2000.
Religious councils are bodies tasked with providing various religious services in local municipalities throughout the country. They deal with issues of marriage, kashrut, burial, mikvehs, cultural activities and more.
Kahana has made female representation on religious councils a central tenet of his leadership of the ministry and has said he will insist on “appropriate representation of women” on such panels.
“Appointing women and including them in key managerial positions in religious councils is of the utmost importance,” he said Thursday.
Religious councils are legally required to have at least 30 percent female representation, but in practice, the figures are much lower.
The new government, the first in years not to include Haredi parties, has sought to reform Israeli religious institutions.
Thursday, however, saw a bill that would have reformed the system for appointing rabbinical court judges fail to pass in its third and final parliamentary vote because the Knesset speaker accidentally voted against it.
The “no” vote by Yesh Atid’s Mickey Levy gave the Knesset a 51-51 tie. Parliamentary procedure holds that a tie is tantamount to a defeat, killing the bill until it can be reintroduced again at a future Knesset session. Coalition sources said they would try again to get it approved next week.
Levy attempted to get special permission to change his vote after realizing his mistake, but the Knesset’s legal adviser ruled that he could not cast another ballot and the vote stands.
The bill would have expanded the panel that chooses rabbinical judges to include more representatives from the government as well as more women.