Israel’s attorney general: Restrictive bill on mikvahs violates basic rights

Marcy Oster

Israeli Minister of Religious Services David Azulay visits a luxury mikvah in the Israeli settlement of Alon Shvut, as he tours the Gush Etzion bloc on August 25, 2015. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Israeli Minister of Religious Services David Azoulay visits a luxury mikvah in the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut, Aug. 25, 2015. (Gershon Elinson/Flash 90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A bill that would bar Conservative and Reform conversions from public ritual baths violates Israeli constitutional law, the country’s attorney general said.

On Sunday, Avichai Mandelblit submitted a legal opinion to the government in which he said the bill violates several basic rights, including to freedom of religion, human dignity and equality, Haaretz reported. The bill passed a first reading in the Knesset last week.

The haredi Orthodox United Torah Judaism faction proposed the measure, which has received support from the haredi Shas party and some members of the religious Zionist Jewish Home party.

The measure aims to override a Supreme Court decision in February mandating that the ritual baths, or mikvahs, be open to Conservative and Reform conversions. Along with prohibiting that practice, the bill also may require that women immerse under the supervision of a mikvah attendant to ensure it is conducted according to Orthodox Jewish law.

Changes likely will be made to the bill before it is brought to the Knesset for its second and third readings.

In its current state, the bill even if it passed would likely be struck down by Israel’s Supreme Court.

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