Middle East

West Bank rabbi bans women from local election

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The chief rabbi of a West Bank settlement has prohibited women from standing in a local community election.

Rabbi Elyakim Levanon of the Elon Moreh settlement, near Nablus, said women lacked the authority to stand for the post of local secretary.

He wrote in a community newspaper that women must only be heard through their husbands.

No women have registered for the election due to be held later on Wednesday, Israeli media reported.

The rabbi made his comments in the community's newspaper after an unidentified young woman wrote to him asking if she could run for the position of community secretary, the Israeli news website Ynet News said.

'Giving authority'

"I am a young woman and I think I have desire and energy to do things," Ynet News quoted the woman as writing to Rabbi Levanon.

"It's not right for men to be the only ones deciding how to run the community," the letter reportedly said.

But in his weekly column, Rabbi Levanon wrote that, according to the teachings of influential rabbis, women were not allowed to apply for the position.

"The first problem is giving women authority, and being a secretary means having authority," Rabbi Levanon wrote in the community's newspaper.

"Within the family certain debates are held and when opinions are united the husband presents the family's opinion.

"This is the proper way to prevent a situation in which the woman votes one way and her husband votes another," he wrote.

He also said it was not appropriate for women to mix with men in late evening meetings of community leaders.

Women's groups have condemned the comments.

"Such talk is scandalous enough to call the rabbi for a clarification. I expect leaders of the religious public in Israel to condemn the rabbi's instruction," Nurit Tzur of the Israel Women's Lobby said .

Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

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