Ministers get control over religious places (JERUSALEM POST) By JEREMY SHARON 05/01/12)
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The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill Sunday
morning that would give the interior minister and religious services
minister the final say in the destruction or rezoning of all
religious buildings in the country.
According to the bill, introduced by Shas MK Avraham Michaeli, there
are many instances in which buildings that have been used for
religious purposes for many years are slated for destruction or
rezoning that would constitute a desecration of the site’s holiness
and disregard the sensitivities of religious communities.
The bill also cites restrictions within Jewish law for changing the
designated use of a building or property from holy to non-sanctified
However, MK Nitzan Horowitz of Meretz expressed sharp opposition to
the bill, stating that it constituted an attempt by Interior Minister
Eli Yishai and Religious Services Minister Ya’acov Margi, both of
Shas, to take control over religious properties.
In addition, Horowitz claimed that the bill was also designed to give
immunity for many buildings in the West Bank. If the bill is passed,
he said, any building could be casually designated as a study hall or
a basement of a synagogue and thus its destruction could be prevented.
“The intent of this bill is clear: Granting immunity to every
structure, particularly in the territories, which are defined
as ‘religious buildings,’ and the granting of veto rights to the Shas
interior minister and religious services minister on everything
connected to ‘religious buildings,’” Horowitz said. “This is another
expression of the obsequiousness of the government before the true
rulers of the state: Settler and haredi politicos.”
The bill was co-sponsored by several national-religious and haredi
MKs, including Michael Ben-Ari, Uri Ariel and Arye Eldad of the
National Union; Uri Maklev and Yisrael Eichler of United Torah
Judaism; David Azoulay, Amnon Cohen, Nissim Ze’ev and Yitzhak Vaknin
of Shas; and Danny Danon and Tzipi Hotovely of Likud.
In response to Horowitz’s criticism, Danon told The Jerusalem Post
that the bill was designed to preserve the values and character of
Israel as a Jewish state. He added that the Likud-led government had
worked hard in this regard in the past three years, and would
continue to do so “after the Likud’s victory in the coming elections.”
“The State of Israel is the state of the Jewish people,” said Danon.
“Only by preserving its religious values, including the provision of
a special status for religious buildings, will we succeed in
preserving the character of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish
people.” (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 05/01/12)
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