Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, one of the most senior Religious Zionism leaders, has ruled that women must not run for Knesset according to Jewish Law, as it is "immodest."
He added that women's right to vote should also be banned, but that nowadays that could be overlooked.
"A woman must not serve as a Knesset member. It's immodest," the rabbi, head of the Ateret Yerushalayim Yeshiva, told his students during a lesson. "Exposure in public is against the Jewish perception of 'All glorious is the princess within her chamber (Psalms 45:13).'"
Rabbi Aviner is considered one of the leaders of Religious Zionism's conservative approach in, especially when it comes to women's status in society. His remarks were published by the Kipa website.
In his lesson, the rabbi tried to base his ruling on the answers given by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, one of the forefathers of Religious Zionism.
"It's not just about arriving at the voting station, placing the vote and going home. That's fine," the rabbi said, referring to women's right to vote and be elected. "The problem is that there are events in which women must know who to vote for, and these are public events which are immodest and bring men and women together."
Aviner explained the role of the Prophetess Deborah, who held a public position, as "a matter of life-saving… There was no other choice, so she went to war… She led because there was no one else."
The rabbi's remarks stirred a row in the religious public, particularly ahead of the primary elections in Habayit Hayehudi-New
National Religious Party, where many women are competing for a spot on the Knesset list.
One of those women, Liora Minka, chairwoman of the Emunah movement, said in response that Rabbi Aviner's comments were "further evidence of the standstill suffered by quite a few rabbis pretending to represent Religious Zionism. Their head is in the sky – or in that Jewish religious literature – while their legs have failed to reach the ground of reality.
"There is no wonder, therefore, that there is such a big gap – which is becoming wider and wider – between many parts of the population and the conservative, stagnated rabbinical establishment.
"It is very unfortunate for scholars," she added, "who instead of promoting peace in the world, bring down a black curtain over reality and 'pretend.' Eventually, the world will continue revolving and improving and advancing – also thanks to talented women, who only add dignity and prestige to Judaism and Religious Zionism – while they will be forced to remain isolated, behind that curtain."
MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud),
a religious lawmaker, presents a letter she received from Rabbi Aviner, in which he clarified that he was only speaking about an ideal situation and gave her his approval to take part in her party's primary elections.
The rabbi wrote in the letter that "ideally, from the Torah's perspective, women should not be involved in politics." He added, however, that "because there are parties which guarantee spots for women on their lists, the most suitable woman should be elected."
Rabbi Aviner sparked another row in the past when he supported the decision to blur a picture of Ruti Fogel,
who was brutally murdered
in the settlement of Itamar along with her husband and three of their children, in a weekly bulleting published by the Meir Institute, explaining that it was "an act of respect."