The dati leumi community is split over who should become the candidate for the post of Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi. According to a Yisrael Hayom report, the Bayit Yehudi party appears to be preparing to announce its support for Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, a leading rabbinical figure in that community. The report states that if Rav Ariel runs the other dati leumi candidates will be asked to withdraw from the race.
Orchestrating the move to bring Rabbi Ariel into the race is Rabbi Chaim Druckman, who is viewed as the elder statesman of the dati leumi rabbinical community. Rav Druckman is also known to be close to Bayit Yehudi leader Minister Naftali Bennett, who is presently in a dilemma, having to decide between a number of candidates including Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, Rabbi David Stav and Rabbi Eliezer Igra. Deputy Minister of Religious Services (Bayit Yehudi) Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan is reportedly working hand in hand with Rav Druckman to bring Rabbi Ariel into the race and compel the others to withdraw.
It appears the difference of hashkafa in the community is impacting the election. The chardalei (chareidi-dati leumi) tzibur affiliated with Yeshivat Har HaMor and the yishuvim for example is viewed as being more liberal as opposed to the Merkaz HaRav community. Rav Ariel is viewed as acceptable to both the liberal and more conservative camps, as well as being the posek for Rabbanei Tzohar and a known major talmid chacham and posek. Rabbi Druckman feels Rabbi Ariel may be the right man, one capable of bridging the different dati leumi camps as well as enjoying considerable popularity among the non-frum.
Rav Ariel viewed himself as a contender in the last race in 2003, but lost to Rabbi Yonah Metzger, who was backed by HaGaon HaRav Elyashiv ZT”L.
Meetings have been ongoing during recent days involving Rabbi Druckman, Rishon L’Tzion HaGaon HaRav Moshe Shlomo Amar Shlita, Deputy Minister Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan and persons representing Bennett in an effort to close the deal on one candidate for the entire dati leumi community. It appears they have not reached a consensus and many believe that they cannot select one of the candidates at the exclusion of all others. Alternatively, it is pointed out that if the 150 person voting body is split due to numerous dati leumi candidates, the race may be lost to a chareidi candidate, such as Rabbi David Lau, who currently serves as chief rabbi of Modi’in and is a son of Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau Shlita.
Supporters of Rav Ariel must resolve a number of issues if they wish to see him elected, including the fact that he is over 70 and therefore, ineligible to run for the post. His candidacy would compel amending the law.
Proponents of Rav Ariel realize that Shas is also working behind the scenes to push its law to permit Rabbi Amar to serve an additional term, and that bill will address the age factor too. However, in order for the bill to pass it will require the support of the prime minister and other political parties. Working in Rav Ariel’s favor is the fact that Maran HaGaon HaRav Ovadia Yosef Shlita supports him, viewing him as a suitable candidate for the post. In actuality, back in 2003, Rav Ovadia preferred Rav Ariel over Rav Metzger but ultimately gave in to the chareidi parties.
Bayit HaYehudi officials announce they hope to announce a decision as to which candidate the dati leumi party will support. Rav Druckman feels that Rav Ariel is an outstanding candidate. Rav Ben-Dahan feels that the community must throw its support behind a single candidate if it wishes to see a dati leumi Ashkenazi chief rabbi.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)