A seemingly simple argument over the construction of a mikveh (ritual bath) in the community of Elkana is set to reach the High Court, asking it to rule whether Chabad is part of Orthodox Judaism.
Hassidim from the Chabad movement in Elkana who seek to build a mikveh with two immersion pools faced opposition from the local religious council, claiming also that this opposition is part of a growing trend in an attempt to force Chabad people to leave Elkana, a religious community 15 miles east of Tel Aviv.
According to the Chabad petition, the local religious council in Elkana is aware that if successful in preventing the construction of the mikveh by following the Chabad requirements, Chabad Hassidim will have to travel long distances to use other mikvehs.
Chabad also specified in the petition that there are over 100 mikvehs across Israel with two immersion pools like they require, not to mention that the Ministry of Housing and Construction helped in financing them.
The Ministry of Housing and Construction is not opposed to Chabad's requirements, on condition that the local religious council would approve.
The religious council, in turn, said that it is guided by the decisions of the community rabbi and the Chabad movement is not part of the Jewish Orthodox group and therefore it can not use the facilities of this group.
'Local Chabad hassidim are from messianic cult'
Judge Edna Arbel issued an injunction last month, and the construction stopped at the site. The court then suggested that the two sides should take the matter to Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu and accept his ruling.
The two sides failed to reach a compromise and the High Court will have to decide whether the Chabad movement is part of the Jewish Orthodox group. If not, Chabad will be entitled to a separate and independent funding of a religious group, like any other recognized group.
Attorney Motti Mintzer, representative of local religious council and a resident of Elkana, told Ynet: "There is mikveh in Elkana since it was established. We moved to the permanent community and decided to build a new mikveh, according to the instructions of the local rabbi, and he ruled according to rulings of outstanding rabbis throughout the generations."
"The local hassidim from Chabad are from a messianic cult and want to force the community to build the mikveh according to their specifications," he said.
In response to Chabad's claims that the religious council does not consider them part of the Orthodox Judaism, Mintzer said: "We don't claim, we never did and we never will. Obviously they are kosher Jews, until they begin acting in a compulsive way, all the while refuting the authority of the community rabbi."
Rabbi Yehuda Stern of Elkana commented: "I have ruled according to our custom on the mikveh issue. We are not a Chabad community and my ruling followed the rulings of outstanding rabbis throughout the generations."