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Dayan Asks Labor Party to Plan Change in Religious Status Quo for Its Next Election Campaign

A major challenge to the religious status quo in Israel was made last night by Defense Minister Moshe Dayan in an assertion that the time was ripe for a change in that status quo and that his Labor party should go into its scheduled 1973 elections with a commitment to change the situation under which Israel’s Orthodox rabbinate controls all issues of personal status.

But Gen. Dayan expressed agreement with Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir’s view that the National Religious Party was the most “natural” and closest party in the Labor-dominated coalition of Premier Golda Meir. Speaking at a meeting of the Labor Center on state and religion, Gen. Dayan stressed the need for changes in the religious situation but urged against any “harsh” decisions to avoid any threat of endangering the Labor party’s continued partnership with the NRP.

Gen. Dayan said he would have supported the Independent Liberal Party’s proposal for a limited introduction of civil marriage in certain cases, now banned by the Orthodox rabbinate. He added, however, that if the Independent Liberals wanted to make such a change, they should have done so in accord with the government and the Prime Minister and “not push the government to the wall.” This was not the proper procedure for a working coalition, he declared. Gen. Dayan was referring to a battle within the coalition over the limited civil marriage proposal on which the Knesset Presidium voted on July 11 to postpone consideration until next fall when the Knesset reconvenes after its summer recess.

Gen. Dayan also suggested that yeshiva boys, now exempt from military service, should be recruited for training and brief military service and then permitted to return to their studies. He said he could see no reason why the NRP should pull out of the coalition over that proposal which he argued “even they must accept.”

Rabbi Menahem Hacohen, who is head of the department of supply of religious needs in the Histadrut, expressed total opposition at the meeting to the present “rabbinical establishment.” He declared that what Israel needed was a rabbinate which would function within a “religious, traditional and historic Jewish framework,” a rabbinate which would be “a living body that lives the problems of the public of today and not remote as it has turned out to be when whoever is greater in saying ‘no’ is regarded as a better rabbi.”

He said the rabbinate had estranged the kibbutz movement, asserting that “certain rabbis” consider kibbutz members as being “out of the Jewish community.” Rabbi Hacohen urged that the Labor party insist on removing religious and traditional problems from the “political game.” Party officials said that more meetings were needed and would be held on the issue.

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