Election Committee head Justice Elyakim Rubinstein – who is himself Orthodox – suggested that UTJ change the text of the ad from “blessed with” to “merited with.” Another sentence that had the phrase “will be blessed from the source of all blessings” should be altered to “will merit all goodness from the source of all bounty,” Rubinstein ordered.
Israel’s Orthodox Election Committee Head Allows Haredi Party To Offer Blessings For Votes, Despite Law Forbidding It
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The Ashkenazi haredi United Torah Judaism political party was ordered to change the text of a campaign ad that promised “sons, long life, and wealth” to anyone who votes for its Knesset list in Tuesday’s national elections, the Times of Israel reported.
The ad, titled “A Holy Calling” and signed by 28 leading haredi rabbis, was published in haredi newspapers.
Israel’s Central Elections Committee banned the ad after a complaint was made by Hiddush, a nonprofit organization that advocates for religious freedom and equality.
“The judge clarified that even great Torah scholars are not above the law. Even they can’t hand out blessings” in exchange for votes,” Hiddush’s head Rabbi Uri Regev told the Times of Israel.
However, Rubinstein – who is himself Orthodox – suggested that UTJ change the text of the ad from “blessed with” to “merited with.” Another sentence that had the phrase “will be blessed from the source of all blessings” should be altered to “will merit all goodness from the source of all bounty,” Rubinstein ordered.
These minor semantic changes do not change the meaning of the ad at all and would still seem to clearly violate Israel’s election law, which forbids parties to induce voters by invoking oaths, curses, divestment, boycotts, vows or promises to give a blessing. Breaking the law carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison or a fine.
But Rubenstein seems to interpret that law far more narrowly than it was intended or worded, parsing the words and meaning to allow the haredi party to continue to offer voters blessings as inducements for voting for it.
Two weeks ago Hiddush successfully petitioned against the Sefardi haredi Shas party, forcing it to remove the option of receiving a blessing from the party’s founder and spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef from a free smartphone application it distributed.
Rubenstein has yet to recommend that the state’s prosecutors prosecute any violation by either haredi party.