President Reuven Rivlin enraged the chareidi public by suggesting that issues such as Shabbos public transport and the public sale of chometz on Pesach should be decided on a local level.
“Israel’s divided reality requires us to make room for regional solutions which cannot be achieved by imposing the power of the majority over the minority,” he said.
“Perhaps the time has come to give each side what it wants, not throughout the whole of Israel, but in specific population centers,” Rivlin suggested. “Perhaps the nature and the degree to which the Jewish character of the public sphere is expressed in matters of kashrus, chometz, Shabbos and gender segregation should be determined primarily at the local, municipal and neighborhood level, and not only at the national level.”
Chareidi leaders lambasted Rivlin’s suggestion.
“The president should adopt a state policy which views the Jewish character of the state as a supreme value and the heritage of the generations as a consensus among all sectors in Israel,” Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of UTJ objected. “The Torah will not be replaced and there is no place to introduce changes to sacred issues and values such as the sanctity of Shabbos, chometz on Pesach and suchlike.”
Rivlin responded to the criticism confusedly.
“Yesterday,” he said, “I tried to express my sincere concern about the serious disagreements on issues of religion and state with the intention to increase peace, but unfortunately tension escalated and for this I am sorry and regretful.”
But Rivlin stuck to his original controversial position, saying, “A state that honors the needs of every sector must agree to arrangements that enable every sector to give expression to its way of life, not cholilah at the cost of annulling the Jewish character of the State of Israel, but out of honor and understanding to the lifestyle of various groups.”