JERUSALEM (May. 25)
Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren’s reelection prospects suffered a surprise reversal Tuesday when a group he had counted on for massive support nominated a formidable challenger.
As the selection of the 150-man rabbinical electoral college began, rabbis of the kibbutzim and moshavim movements chose a slate of 14 electors committed to Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli, a judge of the Rabbinical High Court and a lecturer at the Rabbi Kook Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Yisraeli was also supported by Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef whose frequent public feuding with Goren has long embarrassed the Chief Rabbinate. Yosef is running for reelection unopposed.
The nomination of Yisraeli, a political dove, has split the National Religious party (NRP) whose political hierarchy supports the more militant goren. But Yisraeli is popular among NRP rank and file and rural settlement circles. He once served as rabbi of Kefar Haroeh, on NRP village north of Tel Aviv.
Yisraeli is believed to have wide gross roots support and has spurned a warning from interior Minister Yosef Burg, leader of the NRP, to stand down or face the party’s wrath. He also dismissed urgings from Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, spiritual leader of the Gush Emunim, not to challenge Goren.