The Reform movement this week has won a tender for a program that Shas ministers tailor-made for their affiliated Haredi organizations.
The tender is for running a seminar for 400 youths on the subject of Shabbat, to expose them to the special day of rest and its positive experiences. The tender is for 30 Shabbat days, but now the program will probably take on a very different approach to keeping Shabbat.
Minister of Religious Services Matan Kahana (Yamina) will have to sort out this matter with his coalition partners, one of whom, MK Gilad Kariv (Labor) having formerly served as Executive Director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism.
So, good luck.
The tender was formulated in 2018, and offered in 2019, having been passed over the years from Minister of Religious Services David Azulai (Shas) to Minister of Religious Services Ya’akov Avitan (Shas). According to reports in Israel’s religious media, Shas Chairman and then-Interior Minister Aryeh Deri’s entourage was directly involved in conceiving every detail of the tender so it would fit a particular Shas-affiliated organization called Or Ha’Chayim.
Imagine their surprise (not the good kind of birthday surprise, mind you) when the sealed tender envelopes were opened to reveal that not only Or Ha’Chaim had submitted a bid to fit the Shabbat experience tender – the Reform movement had also submitted a pretty good bid, possibly better – at least on paper.
Shas sued, trying to disqualify the Reform folks, but the court did not accept their claims for disqualification. Now the Ministry of Religious Services, headed by Matan Kahana—not a very popular politician in Haredi circles these days, what with his kashrut reform and his plans to alter the conversion system in Israel—is now committed to accepting this Reform tender as it is. In fact, the Reform movement has already petitioned the High Court of Justice, claiming that the Ministry of Religious Services was delaying the start of the program they won fair and square.
Turns out the Haredim are not the only religious Israelis who can game the system.