JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Labor Party Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich called for greater religious pluralism in Israel.
Speaking in separate appearances Monday at a plenary session of the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in Jerusalem, Lapid and Yachimovich both advocated for the loosening of Orthodox control of Israel’s religious laws.
Yachimovich stressed the need to reform the state’s marriage laws, which grant exclusive control over Jewish marriage in Israel to the Orthodox-dominated Chief Rabbinate.
Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, a member of the governing coalition, promised ahead of elections this year that it would fight for marriage reform and submitted a bill last month to institute civil unions, including for same-sex couples.
“I truly believe this is ridiculous that the State of Israel is the only place in the Western world where Jews do not have freedom of religion,” Lapid said at the plenary. “Women must be allowed to pray wearing prayer shawls. We should equalize Reform, Conservative and Orthodox. It’s very important to us that Israel would be pluralistic.”
The Modern Orthodox Jewish Home Party, also a coalition member, is expected to veto the measure.
In her speech, Yachimovich said Labor was preparing to submit its own bill to institute civil marriage, including same-sex marriage.
“We currently have a unique opportunity,” said Yachimovich, leader of the Knesset’s opposition parties. “Parties in the coalition and opposition are capable of joining forces to pass this law.”