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‘Whirlwind of politics not for women’: Prominent Israeli rabbi reacts to talk of female party leader

‘Whirlwind of politics not for women’: Prominent Israeli rabbi reacts to talk of female party leader
Hardline conservative Israeli rabbi, Shlomo Aviner, has said that women have no role in politics, arguing that former justice minister Ayelet Shaked should not lead the right wing coalition party, stoking a wave of criticism.

Aviner told an Israeli broadcaster on Thursday that “It’s not ok” for Shaked to head up the Union of Right Wing Parties (URWP), adding “the complicated whirlwind of politics is not the arena for the female role.”

Aviner’s comments come on the heels of a letter which he signed alongside dozens of fellow religious leaders urging the URWP to back a “God fearing and Torah observant” candidate, though the rabbi went further than the letter itself, which did not single out Shaked.

Though she served as a member of the Knesset for the Orthodox Jewish Home Party until 2018, Shaked is an avowed secularist.

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The rabbi provoked a torrent of disapproval from lawmakers across the spectrum of Israeli politics, who slammed the comments as bigoted.

“These comments represent a minuscule percentage of the religious-Zionist community and cause a desecration of God’s name,”said New Right Party chief Naftali Bennett on Twitter. 

“Every initiative I did in my life, I did with talented women leaders, in high-tech, in the public realm, and in politics,” he added. “The place of women in politics, and all aspects of society is not in doubt.” 

Co-chair of the left-of-center Blue and White Party Yair Lapid also condemned the remark, tweeting that “Religious and chauvinistic fanatics should not be involved in politics. And, actually, not in the rabbinate.”

Israel Weiss, the former chief military rabbi for the Israel Defense Forces, though not as harsh in his response, stated he had “no problem” with women taking part in politics.

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Aviner is no stranger to controversy. Most recently, the religious leader turned heads when he suggested the fire that broke out at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris may have actually been divine retribution for policies of the Kingdom of France in the 13th century, and has previously stirred debate with his advocacy of gay “conversion therapy,” and his insistence that Talmudic law forbids Jews from renting property to Arabs.

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