IDI Statement on the "Mikveh Bill"
The Ministerial Committee on Legislation today advanced the "Mikveh Bill," which would put into law that mikveh use would be exclusively under the jurisdiction of the Chief Rabbinate, undoing a recent decision by the Supreme Court to permit mikveh use by all streams of Judaism for religious purposes. Scholars at the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) came out against this move by the committee.
Dr. Shuki Friedman, head of the IDI Center for Nation, Religion and State, said the bill's declared purpose is to attack the decision by the Supreme Court. Moreover, this bill would give the Chief Rabbinate unbridled authority over the mikvehs. It can be expected that the Chief Rabbinate would interpret Jewish law as it pertains to the mikveh in the most stringent way possible, as it has in recent year.
Friedman said the legislation should not only concern members of the Reform and Conservative Movements, but anyone who uses the mikveh: men, but mainly women, who might find themselves in a situation where they are being forced to follow stringencies that they don't agree with and are not used to. If this bill passes into law, it would be the first time that an Israeli law would subordinated to religious law, as written in the Shulchan Aruch.
In conclusion, Friedman elaborated that the bill is likely to come back to bite the bill sponsors and could lead to further lack of trust for the Rabbinate by the public. It will become another step in the downgrading of the relevance of the Rabbinate for the people of Israel, and further incentive to privatize religious services. Therefore, anyone who values the balance between religion and state in Israel should be against this bill.