A new era in religious adjudication has begun, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said over the weekend, as a committee to appoint new religious judges for Israel's rabbinical courts chose 22 new judges – eight of them associated with the Religious Zionist movement. The fourteen-hour meeting ended last Friday morning at 3 AM, with the committee choosing, along with the eight Religious Zionist rabbis, seven each from the Ashkenazic and Sephardic haredi communities.
This was the first time in five years the committee appointed any new rabbinical judges, known in Hebrew as dayanim. Over the years, different groups had jockeyed for influence in the appointment process, and the previous two governments did not force the issue, as the current government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has.
“The revolution is beginning,” Shaked said in response to the news. Shaked said that the positive results were in part due to the four female members of the selection committee, which included MK Revital Swed (Zionist Union) and several to'anot, female advocates who represent women in rabbinical court cases.
“This is a great achievement for the selection committee and for Religious Zionism, which stubbornly insisted on the appointment of eight dayanim, despite attempts over the years to derail these appointments,” said Shaked. Several candidates backed by the Tzohar organization, which is close to the Religious Zionist community, were rejected by the committee, and Shaked said that those rejections were “regrettable, but that is how democracy works.”
The 22 selected dayanim will take positions in the various rabbinical courts around the country. Still waiting to be filled are positions for the High Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem. A vote on candidates for those posts was put off due to procedural issues.