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Chief rabbi tells health minister to prioritize funding for locales that build synagogues

Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef promoted a policy he himself described as illegal.

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef (left) with Religions Services Minister Michael Michieli at a ceremony in Jerusalem selling the state's chametz, April 4, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef (left) with Religions Services Minister Michael Michieli at a ceremony in Jerusalem selling the state's chametz, April 4, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef has come under fire for instructing Shas Party lawmaker and newly-minted Health Minister Moshe Arbel to prioritize the allocation of ministry funds to municipalities that build synagogues and yeshivas.

In a video published Sunday by the Kan public broadcaster, Yosef tells Arbel during the former’s weekly post-Shabbat speech, “You have power in your hands, use that power. It is a privilege. Continue to do good deeds.

“Give the councils budgets—on condition that they build a synagogue or yeshiva. I won’t talk about it in detail, it’s illegal. Do it wisely,” said Yosef.

In response, Yisrael Beytenu Party chair Avigdor Liberman called for Yosef to be fired.

“The time has come to stop the insane robbery of the public coffers through shady deals by ultra-Orthodox businessmen in the Knesset,” he tweeted.

Arbel was tapped earlier this month to replace Shas Party leader Aryeh Deri as health and interior minister.

The move comes after Deri was removed from the posts in January by Israel’s Supreme Court.

Arbel had filled the positions temporarily, but as there is a three-month time limit on temporary assignments, the government was compelled to make Arbel’s appointments permanent,

However, the Shas Party said Monday that it would “act as soon as possible to pass the law required to correct the injustice and to appoint Rabbi Aryeh Deri as minister,” referring to a bill that passed its first reading in the Knesset plenum on March 20.

The proposed legislation would allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to restore Deri to his previous roles, after having been forced to fire him on Jan. 22 after the court ruled that Deri’s appointment was “unreasonable in the extreme” due to a prior tax fraud conviction.

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