Jerusalem (Jul. 21)
The Knesset voted today to pass on to committee two bills dealing with the Chief Rabbinate. One measure provides a six month extension of the expired terms of the present chief rabbis, enabling the incumbents to carry on until Jan. 31, 1972. The second deals with elections of chief rabbis. By a 36-12 vote with ten abstentions, the Knesset rejected a private member’s bill aimed at instituting civil marriage in Israel. The bill, introduced by Meir Avizohar of the State List, was supported by his faction, by the Liberals and several members of Mapam. It was opposed by the Labor Alignment, the religious parties, the Free Center and Gahal which assured its defeat. According to Knesset observers, a great many MKs who voted against the bill did so reluctantly and only because of party discipline.
The four hour debate over sending the bills on the chief rabbinate to committee was low keyed but bitter. Sharp criticism was leveled against the Rabbinate and the Government over their handling of the issue and also against the character of the religious status quo in Israel. The bills were opposed by the State List, Haolem Hazeh, the Rakach Communist faction and an independent MK, Shalom Cohen.