Israel’s first liberal rabbi swims against the Orthodox
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Jerusalem (AFP) – The first liberal rabbi of the Israeli parliament, Gilad Kariv, aims to end the monopoly of the ultra-Orthodox on many aspects of daily life in the Jewish state.
The conservative line of the Jewish religion has indeed ruled the day since an agreement that ultra-Orthodox rabbis struck with David Ben-Gurion when he founded the State of Israel in 1948.
“The only subject on which people on the right and left have a large majority is the relationship between religion and the state,” Kariv told AFP in an interview in his parliamentary office in Jerusalem.
“Most Israelis favor civil marriage, public transportation on the Sabbath (the Jewish day of rest and prayer) and mixed space” for prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the holiest site in Judaism , did he declare.
Israeli Jews need the services of Orthodox rabbis to get married or divorced, public transportation stops on the Sabbath, and religious dietary laws apply in all public institutions, including the military and schools.
But Kariv, 48, who was elected in the last Israeli polls in March as a member of the Labor Party, has a liberal agenda.
In the United States, which is home to the largest number of Jews after Israel, most adherents attend liberal or conservative schools of Judaism, both unorthodox and gender-equal.
Although they are a minority in Israel, Kariv believes that “most non-religious people in the country feel much closer to us (the liberals) than to Orthodox Judaism.”
For Kariv, a lawyer by training and a leading figure in Israel’s liberal religious camp for more than a decade before running for office, the country is “Jewish and democratic, which is not the same as” orthodox and democratic â.
At first, Orthodox colleagues in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, refused to recognize it, and some still boycott any debate if the âsatanicâ MP takes part.
In 2016, progressive movements were behind the authorization of an area at the Western Wall for men and women to pray together, but former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu foiled the plan under pressure from the partners of the ultra-Orthodox coalition.
The plan is now back on the agenda of the new Israeli government, to the fury of ultra-Orthodox “haredim” (those who fear God).
Movements towards religious pluralism “correspond to the spirit of the government, with its broad and varied coalition,” said Kariv, referring to the multi-party government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
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