JERUSALEM (JTA) — A bill to have one chief rabbi in Israel rather than the current two passed its first reading in the Knesset.
On Monday, the bill passed by a vote of 22-14, representing less than a third of the Israeli parliament’s 120 lawmakers. It moves to the Knesset’s Interior Committee for refining before its second and third reading; the measure is expected to pass handily.
If the bill becomes law, it would take effect in 2023, at the end of the 10-year terms of the current Sephardi and Ashkenazi chief rabbis.
The one chief rabbi also would head the Chief Rabbinate Council. The rabbinic courts would become separate from the Chief Rabbinate, with the president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court chosen from among current chief rabbis.
Haredi Orthodox lawmakers decried the bill, saying it was meant to weaken the religious establishment.
Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett and Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan, both of the Jewish Home party, and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni of Hatnua proposed the measure.