Yerushalayim Mayor Nir Barkat yesterday filed a petition to the Israeli High Court of Justice against Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi of Shas and the committee selecting the capital’s rabbis, demanding clear and egalitarian criteria in the committee’s work.Barkat also asked the court to issue an intermediary order halting any further progress in the selection process until the contested issues are resolved.
The city has had no official rabbi since 2002. In 2005, Barkat filed a petition against then-prime minister Ariel Sharon in his capacity as religious affairs minister, to force him to act toward the election of a city rabbi.
In December of that year, at the behest of the Yerushalayim Municipality, the search was expanded to include two chief rabbis.
The general elections of 2006 brought the process to a halt, and according to Tuesday’s petition, regulations published in 2007 included lacunas meant to make the selection process more difficult.
Barkat is not concealing the fact that he wants the election of a national-religious rabbi for a city that is over two-thirds non-charedi, an aim that was also part of his election platform in 2008. In an announcement, he noted that 60 percent of the shuls chosen to be part of the selection process are from the charedi sector.
“A rabbi has a significant part in representing the city and its residents…unlike the charedi populace, the general public doesn’t have “community rabbis,” therefore the figure of the rabbi representing them is especially significant,” the mayor said.
Sources from within the Religious Services Ministry pointed out that while Barkat claims a pro-charedi bias within the committee’s composition, he is quite obviously biased in the other direction, and therefore his claims have no validity.