Re-appointment of Deputy Minister Matan Kahana fails, opposition MKs sound off

On June 6th, the Knesset held a vote on the appointment of Deputy Minister of Religious Services Matan Kahana (Yamina) to be the Minister of Religious Services. Deputy Minister Kahana had previously held the ministerial post, but formally resigned last month so as to resume his seat as a member of the Knesset in an attempt to reinforce the loyalty of the Yamina faction in the Knesset to the governing coalition. The recent vote would have allowed Deputy Minister Kahana to resume his ministerial post while continuing to serve as an MK.
In a blow to the Government, the vote was 55-55, and thus the appointment failed to reach the majority required for approval.
Before the vote, members of the parliamentary opposition had the opportunity to voice their criticisms of Deputy Minister Kahana and the government’s approach to issues of religion and state. Many of the speakers made reference to the reform on kashrut supervision, which established that kashrut certification bodies that meet the religious criteria to be set by the Chief Rabbinate and prove their financial sustainability and proper management will be able to issue certifications of kashrut, as well as proposed reforms to allow local municipal rabbis to perform conversions and to reform the electoral body of the Chief Rabbinate.
Read about these reforms and more in our summary report of the winter legislative session.

MK Avi Maoz (Religious Zionism):

This bad coalition wants to return Kahana to his ministerial seat. Why? So that he can continue to harm the Jewish identity of the state, so that he can continue to harm the standing of the Chief Rabbinate and the Chief Rabbis, so that he can continue influencing the next elections for the Chief Rabbinate.

Matan, your opinions regarding the Jewish identity of the state have been made known. You do not represent the Torah, God forbid, but rather in your opinion Jewish law is a bother to the state, and you are trying to free the state from the nuisance of Jewish law. You think that the rabbis, and the religious and ultra-Orthodox sectors created grudges and animosity towards Judaism until you came to redeem it. Isn’t that so? And thus, as you said, for 73 years the State of Israel did not have a Minister of Religious Services like you. Thank God it did not. Is someone who castigates the rabbis over and over, and the Chief Rabbis in particular, worthy of being Minister of Religious Services? Is someone who has the support of a mere 3% of Israel’s rabbis worthy of being Minister of Religious Services? Matan, would Reuven Kahana, your grandfather, the farmer from the kibbutz, who lived according to the rulings of the Hazon Ish and who was named after the Hafetz Haim, sign off on what you are doing? Is this the vision of Kibbutz Hafetz Haim? The time has come to let go. You failed, morally, ethically, and Jewishly.

MK Yosef Taieb (Shas):

What you have done here in the past year to religion, to the Jewish identity of the State of Israel. I am not speaking on behalf of the ultra-Orthodox in the Knesset. I am speaking on behalf of the traditional sector here in the Land of Israel. Your hypocrisy, your lack of discipline in regard to the Chief Rabbis, the harm to conversion, kashrut, to everything good that is for the benefit of the State of Israel and the Jewish identity of the State of Israel — you ruined everything, you sold everything for lentil stew, and we can not be whole with that. It can not be that you will lead the Ministry of Religious Services. You have turned the ministry into religious destruction, and therefore we must object.

MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionism):

Even if this coalition were to bring a bill tomorrow morning to rebuild the Holy Temple, I would vote against it. Is that surprising? We will not be partners to this thing, and we will not be partners to the harm and destruction that this minister that you wish to appoint is doing alongside the adversaries of Judah and Israel to the religious system in the State of Israel.

MK Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism):

Just as a pilot cannot be a surgeon, and a surgeon cannot be a pilot, so too a pilot, with his entire resume, cannot manage the Ministry of Religious Services when he does not believe in it, and operates against it. Everything that this ministry does — you have squashed, uprooted, humiliated, and mocked the standing of the rabbis, the standing of municipal and regional rabbis, the religious councils and the rabbinic courts, and the rabbinic judges and your own employees. In the first week, you need to apologize to them for hurting them. In order to explain your moves, you needed to explain how unprofessional and insincere they were, and how the change demands reform. It turns out that all of your reforms, from the start — we can take as an example the reform in kashrut supervision — you brought here in a celebratory way before the committee with the ones whom you are working for, Liberman and Yisrael Beitenu with Yulia– that’s who you work for. You are entirely committed to them.

MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism):

Matan Kahana has come here — I heard him for the first time, and I was terrified by these words. The man does not hide it, he says: I want to ruin all matters of Judaism. He did not at all succeed. That is the truth. He passed the reform in kashrut supervision. What is the reform in kashrut supervision? That there shouldn’t be kashrut supervision in Israel. No one is going with him. In order to implement it he needs hotels and restaurants to go with him. No one is going with him. Who trusts what he is doing? Not only that, he says: I will make conversion like he wants conversion to be. You should know this, because when you are familiar with Judaism here and with all that has been done. To our great joy, the Holy One Blessed Be He rules the world and does not allow for the possibility of changing conversion into whatever he wants. He needs a majority of the Knesset, and we have seen today what he has.

MK Yinon Azoulay (Shas)

What is this government trying to do? To appoint Minister Kahana to be minister with an affinity to the Prime Minister. That is the problem, his affinity to the Prime Minister. He has no affinity to Judaism or to the needs of Judaism. He does not know the importance of Judaism. He is the one ruining every sign of Judaism in the Jewish state. He is the one sticking nail after nail in the burial coffin of the Jewish state. If someone thought that this man could come and do something for Judaism, he was wrong. Look now at the conversion system: He has gone down from the great rabbis that were there, and after that he brought another Tzohar rabbi and now he has gone down to his chief of staff. Tell me, do you think that is normal? Forget what is happening. To bring a chief of staff to lead the conversion system? Does he know anything about conversion, that person? To put him in charge of conversion? Tell me, have you gone mad? Kashrut, conversion, and he brought in the Reform. I think that it is a shame that you would make him Minister of Religious Services.

MK Yakov Asher (United Torah Judaism):

I appreciate beliefs, even if those beliefs are different from ours. I appreciate people who are proud of their faith, of course, but I do not respect people who reach certain positions, like Minister Kahana — and not that he is not sanctifying God’s name, but that in every step of his he is desecrating God’s name. What do I mean? A man shows up, a kippah on his head, he grew up in a religious synagogue, in religious yeshivas, and he comes and stomps, as if he wants to renounce, to show: Look how beautiful I am, look how intellectual I am, look how I do reforms, look how I discriminate, look how I ruin the standing of the Chief Rabbinate. He talks about the rabbis as if they were pieces on a chess board, with no respect for Jewish legal rulings. A game with the Chief Rabbis, with the Rishon LeZion, with rabbis with whom he studied. Who are you? You are a pilot who now has vertigo, so must we all? You stomped, kicked, acted disrespectfully, tried to shake off the kippah that remained on your head. Learn from other people who are religious here, and not from the Jewish religion. They do not try to shake off their own faith. They fight for it, they do not disrespect it. You have dishonored it, and thus history will dishonor you, and your children and your grandchildren will know that you tried to crumble every bit of Jewish law. In such a short period of time, you and the other pretender with whom you sit in the government — you trampled, you harmed, you disrespected. We must say as a proper blessing with God’s name: Blessed is He who spared us from you as Minister of Religious Services, and soon — Blessed is He who spared us from you as Deputy Minister of Religious Services.

MK Yoav Ben Tzur (Shas):

Matan Kahana — He is used to receiving orders. He is used to receiving orders, and he received an order, so he tried to execute a precise destruction of Judaism. There are missiles aimed at the Rabbinate, this is a large missile aimed at kashrut, there is a smart bomb aimed at halakhic conversion, and there is a bomb weighing a ton aimed at all of Judaism. He just went place by place, plot by plot, just to destroy. This is not a Minister of Religious Services, this is a Minister of Religious Destruction. Due to all of the bombs he does not see people, nor does he see the leading figures of religious Zionism, whom you are trampling. In 74 years, no one has done the level of destruction like this like the minister has done now. 

MK Haim Biton (Shas):

The government wants to make him a minister, with the goal being to increase his power, let’s say, over the ministry which he supervises. Why do we need to increase the power of someone who took the power which he was given for nearly the last year, and tried to destroy everything holy? Tried, I say tried, because this too we said here, and I will say it again: With God’s help, he will not succeed in passing anything of his many plans — Conversion, kashrut, rabbis, everything connected to religion.

MK Moshe Abutbul (Shas)

You have disgraced the great Torah sages, insulted them, as if you are the rabbi of the Diaspora, when in reality you flew very high. But the crash came, and you will continue to crash. I get sent, from time to time, screenshots from groups that you’re in. They insult you there. They get into you, but you are locked on to one goal: to ruin everything good in the Ministry of Religious Services, to ruin the religious life of the country. What ministers from the Alignment didn’t dare to do, and from other parties, you do proudly, brazenly, you ruined without mercy. In short, you are a little Reform, who now wants to be a minister. And what you’ve done, you ruined Meron this year, we will never forget. If we want to preserve Torah life in the land, the Jewish character of the state, what is left of the status quo, that has to brazenly been violated, we must vote against you with all of our might.

MK Uriel Busso (Shas)

The appointment being currently discussed, the person who was previously Minister of Religious Services and will not again be Minister of Religious Services, Matan Kahana, who trampled everything good in Judaism and religious services in the State of Israel from the moment he entered, all of his dreams and fantasies of harming marriage, conversion, kashrut, everything has been shelved. Maybe do some soul searching? Maybe understand why this whole failure has happened, and why you quit the government yet received nothing? From the moment you entered the ministry, you didn’t miss an opportunity to poke the eyes of the rabbis, to harm the standing of the Chief Rabbis and the municipal rabbis, to enact reforms, to serve Yisrael Beitenu, Yulia Malinovsky and Avigdor Liberman. Your shame has been made public. You are not fit to be a minister, and therefore we will vote against your appointment as minister.

MK Yoav Kisch (Likud):

They want to appoint as Minister of Religious Services a person who has fought as hard as possible against religion, who crafted the conscious effort of this government against the Jewish identity of the state. I am neither religious nor ultra-Orthodox, but I see how this government has done everything to harm the ultra-Orothodox and to harm the Jewish identity — from bags at the supermarket, which they want to make more expensive — really, everything just to harm the utlra-Orthodox. And Matan Kahana is the central figure that represents that bad and harsh maneuver against the Jewish identity. Therefore, there is no reason in the world that anyone for whom Jewish identity is important should support this move.