(JNi.media) MK Isawi Frej (Meretz) on Tuesday night came to the ultra-Orthodox enclave of B’nei B’rak to meet with two senior Haredi rabbis, Rabbi Shimon Baadani of the Council of Torah Sages of Shas, and Rabbi Mordechai Gross, of the Lithuanian community, Kikar Hashabbat reported. The issue at hand was the ultra-Orthodox veto on a Frej bill calling for including at least one woman among the Qadis-Muslim jurists in Israeli courts that operate under Sharia Law. The bill is also sponsored by MKs Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Camp-Labor) and Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint Arab List).
The ultra-Orthodox opposition to Frej’s bill stems from their fear that appointing women as Muslim Qadis might create a precedent to would force rabbinical courts to follow suit. The government is expected to object to the bill, based on the coalition agreement between Likud and the Haredi parties giving them veto power over religious legislation. MK Frej asked for the meeting with the rabbis in B’nei B’rak to try and change their minds.
However, despite the unusual gesture, both Rabbis Baadani and Gross did not offer Frej the breakthrough he was seeking. “A woman cannot be a court judge according to the Torah,” Rabbi Gross explained, “so there can’t be an allowance to support appointing women as Islamic judges.” Frej told his hosts that “only the ultra-Orthodox opposition is likely to thwart the appointment of a woman to this job.”
MK Frej used the opportunity of the meeting to speak with the rabbis about the tense security situation. Among other things, he quoted from a publication of the Israel Democracy Institute that “the most negative attitude toward the Arab sector is prevalent in the religious and ultra-Orthodox communities.” He asked the rabbis to suggest ways “for each of us to emphasize the love of goodness and the love of mankind.” In response, Rabbi Baadani spoke about his grandson who was killed a year ago in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem, and said: “We need to speak with Minister Aryeh Deri to organize something.”
Frej told Kikar Hashabbat that although he did not receive the message he was hoping for from the rabbis, he plans to continue “knocking on every door until I get what I want.” He said, “My religious law allows it, and I should not have to be a captive of another religious law. We need to be independent and I believe in the righteousness of my way. I will continue my fight inside the Haredi society and in society in general. I’m here to do my work faithfully.”
Meanwhile, the Commission for the Appointment of Qadis in Israel—in which MK Frej is a member—is scheduled to vote soon on five new appointments to the Sharia Courts. As of today, 11 male Qadis serve in regional Sharia courts and in the Court of Appeals in Israel.