Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron

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Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron

Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron (born 1941), is a former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel.

Background[edit]

Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron was born in Jerusalem, son of Tova Bakshi-Doron. He grew up along with two brother(one elder, one younger) and a younger sister. He studied in several prominent Religious Zionist yeshivot. He was appointed Chief Rabbi of Bat Yam in 1972, and later, Haifa, in 1975, a position he held until 1993, when he became Chief Rabbi of Israel.

Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron has written several books and articles on religious subjects. In 2000 he and his Ashkenazi counterpart, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau made headlines in the Jewish world when they met with Pope John Paul II. While some, particularly in the haredi community, denounced the meeting as demeaning, even blasphemous, most Jews and Israelis supported the ecumenical spirit of the meetings. The meeting with the Pope was later seen as a historical precedent for a 2005 meeting of Chief Rabbis Amar and Metzger with the new Pope, Benedict XVI.

Bakshi-Doron is a widower; his wife Esther, the daughter of the former Chief Rabbi of Akko, died in 2005. The two had ten children.

Bakshi-Doron is the first Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel since Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel (1939-1954) who is not of Iraqi origin.

Policy positions[edit]

Bakshi-Doron has become somewhat notable for his willingness to depart from the conventional Religious Zionist party line. In 2000, while visiting the tiny Jewish community in Singapore, Bakshi-Doron declared that he was in favor of giving away parts of East Jerusalem to the Palestinians in exchange for peace in the Arab-Israeli Conflict. He added that any agreement would have to include the Temple Mount remaining in Israeli hands.[citation needed]

He also received attention in 2002 when he took part in an inter-faith conference in Alexandria, Egypt, along with the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George Carey, Rabbi Michael Melchior, and the muftis of Bethlehem and the PA police forces. The conference resulted in a written agreement in which the religious leaders denounced the ongoing violence in the Middle East. Although the accord received the support of both Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat, it seems to have had little practical effect. Bakshi-Doron continues to participate in interfaith activities and currently sits on the Board of World Religious Leaders for The Elijah Interfaith Institute.[1]

In 2004, Bakshi-Doron spoke out in favor of ending the Orthodox monopoly over marriages in Israel, saying that the law had become irrelevant and was now a source of division and hatred between Orthodox Jews and their Masorti, Reform, and secular counterparts. Bakshi-Doron's comments marked the first time any member of the Chief Rabbinate had recommended relinquishing its authority, and some in the Orthodox community described the speech as a "bombshell." [needs citation]

Bakshi-Doron came under fire by the Israeli Reform Movement in 1996 after a sermon in which he compared the movement with the biblical Zimri, who was killed by another man, Pinchas, son of Eleazar, for sleeping with a Midianite woman. Bakshi-Doron responded by dismissing the complaint as a publicity move, saying it was "unthinkable" that anyone would seriously consider his speech as an incitement to murder.[2] He was attacked by the Reform Movement again in 1999 after comments which Reform leaders claimed compared Reform Judaism to the Holocaust.[3]

In 2002, he accused Yasser Arafat of attempting to commit "a Holocaust against the State of Israel." [4]

Bakshi-Doron briefly received attention in January 2005 for attending the First World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace in Brussels, Belgium. The Congress was made up of around 180 notable Jewish and Muslim religious representatives, authorities and scholars from all over the world, and released a statement that called for the promotion of peace and understanding between Jews and Muslims.[5]

In August 2005, Bakshi-Doron, along with Modern Orthodox rabbis Norman Lamm and Aharon Lichtenstein, condemned calls by other prominent rabbis for IDF soldiers to disobey orders to dismantle Jewish settlements as part of the Gaza Disengagement.[6]

Farming controversy[edit]

In 2000, Bakshi-Doron became involved in a disagreement with some of the leading rabbis in Israel. In order to get around the Halakhic prohibitions of shmita, in which farmland must lie fallow once every seven years, Sephardi and Zionist Ashkenazi rabbis had traditionally issued "sales permits", with which farmers could symbolically sell their land to non-Jews for the sabbatical year, letting them continue to farm. That year the permits came under fire by Haredi Mitnagdic authority Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv. Chief Rabbis Bakshi-Doron and Lau, along with former Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, ruled that the permits were still valid, and Bakshi-Doron publicly told farmers to go ahead with the sales.

When Bakshi-Doron gave farmers the green light to go ahead and work during the sabbatical year, the haredi newspaper Yated Ne'eman leaked threats that he would be excommunicated. He and his family were also threatened with ostracism, which would have meant that no member of the haredi community could have contact with them.

Eliashiv also said that unless Bakshi-Doron backed down, he would no longer be recognized as a rabbi among Haredim. In response, an emotional Bakshi-Doron met with Israeli President Moshe Katsav, where he reportedly burst into tears. Despite the open support of Katsav and Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Bakshi-Doron ultimately bowed to Eliashiv's threat. This was widely seen by members of the National Religious camp, which Bakshi-Doron belonged to, as a surrender to the Haredi community.[7][8]

Quotes[edit]

When I see all of the imams and rabbis coming together, this is a message to the Creator that we are here to do your will, that is to bring peace.- Bakshi-Doron at the conclusion of the First World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace.

Sources[edit]

References[edit]

Jewish titles
Preceded by
Mordechai Eliyahu
Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel
1993–2003
Succeeded by
Shlomo Amar