With 22 new rabbinical judges, will divorce in Israel get a makeover?

The building of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel in Jerusalem (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
One-third of positions filled in a day, but halls of rabbinical high court remain empty; 3 liberal rabbis miss the cut

By Marissa Newman|The Times of Israel

Breaking up is hard to do. Picking who makes that break up official, it seems, might be just as difficult in the State of Israel.

Following a four year stalemate, it took just 15 hours earlier this month for lawmakers to carry out a major overhaul of Israel’s rabbinical courts, possibly paving the way for “historic” changes in the body that controls divorces for the country’s Jewish citizens.

While the judges were picked by party line, as part of an agreement between the three major religious Knesset factions, the move could still change the way Israelis wind their way through the sometimes byzantine divorce process, activists and others say.

The Knesset meeting on September 10, which began at noon, was described by a committee member as “very politically charged.”

By 3 a.m., 22 out of the 24 vacant positions on the regional courts — which determine marriage and divorce cases under Israel’s status quo agreement — were filled, with three of the more liberal candidates left out, courtesy of a veto by the ultra-Orthodox members of the committee and backed by its chair, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz.

The total amounted to roughly one-third of Israeli religious judges sitting on divorce courts.

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