Knesset to Meet Today in Special Session As Bnei Israel Issue Flares

The controversy over the refusal of the Bnei Israel, the Indian Jewish community in this country, to accept some marriage regulations set down by the Chief Rabbinate, flared higher than ever today as the Israel Cabinet discussed the issue at its regular, weekly meeting. An official communique issued after the Cabinet meeting stated only that “the Government summed up discussions on the subject.” But the entire matter will come up before Israels’s Parliament, the Knesset, tomorrow. Parliament has been recalled from its summer recess to meet in special session on the Brei Israel dispute.

Meanwhile, today, as hundreds of rabbis from all over the country held a meeting here, to protest last week’s demonstration by the Bnei Israel, circles close to the Chief Rabbinate expressed “surprise” and “dissatisfaction” over an article that has appeared in the Israel Army’s chaplaincy bulletin. The bulletin, published under the supervision of Brig. Gen. Shlomo Goren, chief chaplain of Israel’s Defense Forces, attacked Israel’s present system of regional marriage registrars. The bulletin contended that that system “may become in the future another source of confusion” as between the legality of regional registrars and the authority of rabbinical registrars. Supporters of the Chief Rabbinate called the article “a stab in the back.”

At the rabbinical meeting here today, the spiritual leaders protested against the fact that, at a Bnei Israel rally last week, the portrait of Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim had been burned in public. Today’s meeting was addressed by a number of religious leaders, including Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Isser Unterman.

The controversy stems from the refusal of the Bnei Israel sect to accept the Chief Rabbinate’s directive requiring special marriage registration procedures. Bnei Israel feels that this is an insult, and casts doubt on their status as Jews. The Chief Rabbinate contends that, because of frequent instances of intermarriage in the sect’s history, Jewish law demands that the family background of each couple applying for a marriage license be investigated to prevent any violation of religious injunctions.

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