Naftali Bennett has done it again.
First, he passed shivyon ba’netel, which was supposed to get Chareidim into the army, but will instead get hesder boys (religious Zionists) out of yeshiva and into the army for longer.
Second, he promised to bring religious Zionist leadership to Jerusalem. Now, he’s doing everything in his power to stop it.
Wait, you didn’t know Jerusalem was due to have a new chief rabbi? Elections are actually coming up – well, they were supposed to be coming up. Last year. And the year before that. And the year before that. You get the idea. But for one bureaucratic reason after another, they have been getting pushed off time and time again.
Now, they are on the horizon. Nir Barkat gave his word that elections for Jerusalem chief rabbi would be held within the month. The candidates are few, but it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. And the only real candidate is Rav Aryeh Stern, a religious Zionist, rabbi in Merkaz HaRav yeshiva, rabbi of Chorev Congregation in Katamon and a talmid chacham who is respected by rabbis across the wide spectrum of Judaism.
Rav Aryeh Stern was elected by a body of rabbis from all over the country, including Jerusalem rabbis and community leaders – religious Zionist, Chareidi, you name it – as their one and only candidate for the chief rabbinate of Jerusalem. He should be a shoo-in.
Except that now, Naftali Bennett and his posse are trying to push off elections by changing the rules of the game that everyone has been playing by. A typical Israeli politician move to avoid something they don’t want to happen.
And Nir Barkat is letting it happen.
The insidious element to this procrastination is that Jerusalem law only allows rabbis under the age of 70 to run for chief rabbi of Jerusalem. Rav Aryeh is 69, and will be 70 by the time Bennett allows elections. And thus, disqualified.
Why doesn’t Naftali Bennett want Rav Aryeh Stern, religious Zionist, to be elected as chief rabbi of Jerusalem? Would he rather an ultra-orthodox rabbi? Would he rather a beloved, yet harmless rabbi like current chief rabbi of Israel, Rav David Lau, who lacks the authority and power to implement any real changes and make any real progress?
Jerusalem needs a religious Zionist chief rabbi who is accepted by all streams of Judaism, and who will address the current issues – and though they might not be headline material on a daily basis, they are important.
The next chief rabbi of Jerusalem needs to deal with issues of Kashrut that plague restaurant owners on a constant basis, with issues of restaurants opening on shabbat, with accepting the giur of the army for marriage registration, with making sure balaniyot in women’s mikvaot are not invasive, with issues of making peace between ultra-orthodox and modern orthodox and so much more.
Rav Aryeh Stern has been the rabbi of Chorev Congregation for 40 years, an intelligent, inquisitive, successful and modern community – and he is the only candidate who is respected by rabbis across the gamut. He is the only one equipped to do the job well and bring peace to a city where unrest constantly bubbles just beneath the surface.
And so I ask Naftali Bennett, what do you have against giving a qualified, religious Zionist rabbi the opportunity to become chief rabbi of Jerusalem?
The answer, unfortunately, is quite clear. Naftali Bennett has his own agenda, and doesn’t care what is best for the future and people of Jerusalem. It’s really a shame.
Nir Barkat, speak now or forever hold your peace.