JERUSALEM (Jul. 16)
The only National Religious Party Knesset member who refused to abstain in last Wednesday’s vote on a controversial halachic (religious law) conversion bill, was ousted from the Cabinet today for breach of coalition discipline. Dr. Avner Sciaky, who held the post of Deputy Minister of Education, was fired by Premier Golda Meir without opposition from any of her ministers although the three NRP ministers in the Meir Government abstained when the matter came up for a vote.
One of them reportedly suggested that a severe censure of Dr. Sciaky would be sufficient. But Mrs. Meir was apparently in no mood for half measures. The treatment meted out to Sciaky was seen as a warning to other factions not to defy the government to which they belong.
Sources close to Sciaky, a university professor with a large Sephardic following, said he had in fact resigned before the Cabinet acted today. Deputy Premier and Education Minister Yigal Allon disclosed several hours later that he had just received a letter of resignation from Sciaky. A Sciaky spokesman told newsmen the letter was written last night.
Sciaky’s departure from the government also left his future with the NRP in doubt and there was talk that the professor might start his own party. While the NRP supported the halachic conversion measure in principle, it agreed after tortuous debate, to abstain, having previously persuaded Mrs. Meir that a religious party could not possibly vote against the bill. Sciaky, who had been campaigning independently for halachic conversions, refused to go along with his party. The NRP, and Sciaky in particular, were under severe pressure from right-wing Orthodox elements here and abroad including the Lubavitcher Rebbe in New York to vote for the bill introduced by Agudat Israel MK Shlomo Lorincz. Heroes And Villains
Sciaky is now a hero among the ultra-Orthodox. Newspapers here carried large advertisements placed by right-wing Orthodox groups Friday praising Sciaky and contrasting his stand with his party’s "pusillanimity."
In contrast, one NRP MK who abstained in Wednesday’s vote became a target of abuse and threats from ultra-Orthodox elements. Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Neriyah, a yeshiva dean and spiritual leader of the Bnei Akiva, a national religious youth movement, was forced to leave a Safad synagogue Friday evening. He had just joined worshippers at the grave-site of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochal when he was pointed out and assailed by zealots of the Neturei Karta sect. Rabbi Neriyah continued his devotions on the roof of the synagogue where he was eventually joined by a group of Breslau Hassidim and others who resented the attack.