Israel chooses two chief rabbis

July 25, 2013 at 7:58 AM
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JERUSALEM, July 25 (UPI) -- Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Israel's newly elected chief rabbis, Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau, it's time to unite the Israeli population.

"This is the time to work to unite the [Jewish] people of Israel, and to increase the love of Israel," The Jerusalem Post quoted Netanyahu as saying as he, President Shimon Peres and others congratulated the newly installed religious leaders.

Peres echoed similar sentiments in telephone conversations with the two.

Lau, 48, is the son of former chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, and will head the Ashkenazi rabbinate. The 61-year-old Yosef is the son of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and will head the Sephardic sector. Both will serve 10-year terms.

Both rabbis are viewed as mainstream figures who are unlikely to rock the boat of the rabbinate or the Knesset, The Times of Israel said. The rabbinical elections took place just days after the government voted in favor of a draft bill to increase the enlistment of ultra-Orthodox males into the army or national service. The issue has been hotly contested by the Orthodox Jewish community in Israel.

Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett, who backed Rabbi David Stav, who lost out to Lau, congratulated the two and impressed on them the need "to act and bring the hearts of the Jewish people close," The Times of Israel said. Bennett who seeks to introduce reforms in the rabbinate said in the next elections for chief rabbi, only one candidate will be chosen -- "just like there is one chief of staff and one president of Israel."

Voting for six candidates seeking the post took place in a Jerusalem hotel. The candidates were selected in a complex process by a committee made up of 150 rabbis, mayors, religious officials and government appointees, The Times of Israel said.

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