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Recent Developments Increasing Gap Between Israel, Diaspora

Conservative Rabbi Arrested for Performing Weddings

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20 Jul 2018 (All day)
Recent Developments Increasing Gap Between Israel, Diaspora
A tidal wave of angry denunciation has arisen from governments, NGOs and Jewish communities all over the world in response to Thursday’s passage by the Knesset of the so-called “Jewish Nation-State” bill, along with the arrest and interrogation in Haifa of a Conservative Rabbi for performing non-Orthodox wedding ceremonies. Familiar charges of “racism” and “apartheid” came from Israel’s traditional opponents but also long-time defenders and friends in the American and European Jewish communities.

“We are concerned. We have expressed this concern and we will continue to engage with Israeli authorities in this context,” a spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini told a news briefing. “We’ve been very clear when it comes to the two-state solution. We believe it is the only way forward, and any step that would further complicate or prevent this solution of becoming a reality should be avoided.”

Echoing statements made by many other American Jewish groups, the Anti-Defamation League said that “elements in the bill that could undermine Israel’s cherished democratic character, exacerbate relations between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs as well as those between Israel and Diaspora Jews, and indeed, impair Israel’s international reputation.”

Meanwhile, expressions of outrage were also registered over the early morning arrest of Conservative (Masorti) leader Rabbi Dov Hayun at his Haifa apartment Thursday. Hayun was taken into custody and brought to a nearby police station where he was interrogated regarding his officiating several weddings in Israel outside the jurisdiction of the Chief Rabbinate.

“It’s not pleasant to be dragged from your bed to an investigation for the sin of doing weddings in accordance with the religion of Moses and Israel,” Hayun said after being released by the police at the station. “I am not a criminal, I am not a murderer, not a law breaker. I was astonished. It’s hard for me to think of a less Jewish deed on the eve of the Fast of Tisha Be’av. The police have been dragged into being a tool of the Orthodox Rabbinical Court. It’s a sad day for democracy in Israel.”

Incoming Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herog led a chorus of condemnation over the incident, while some MKs and prominent Ultra-Orthodox (haredi) rabbis supported the police and re-iterated their support for the Chief Rabbinate’s continued monopoly over Jewish weddings and other related matters.

“These are the actions of Iran and Saudi Arabia,” Rabbi Steve Wernick, leader of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism in the US wrote in a letter to the Israeli Consul in New York. “What’s next, the police will enforce the rabbinate’s modesty rules? Kashrut rules? Shabbat rules? The prime minister and his government are now at risk of permanently harming Klal Yisrael [the Jewish nation], certainly with the next generation of North American Jews… Israel is losing its soul and weakening its democracy and Jewish character. It’s beacon of light on the nations is now dim. Even I am having difficulty seeing it.”

The Reform Movement in Israel said, “Never before has the battle waged over the spirit of Judaism in Israel been more pronounced.”