Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook and Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion

Opinion // The Israeli Rabbinate: The Origin Story

by Elli Fischer Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the British military and Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, all played a role in creating the powerful chief rabbinate. “The Rabbanut will have an impact by virtue of its constant efforts to bring people together, to inject a spirit of harmony among all parties and factions, and to strengthen the Torah and its honor in the Holy Land and throughout the world.” Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935), the first chief rabbi of Israel, penned this idealistic vision of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, or Rabbanut, when he was appointed to lead it in 1921. British Mandatory authorities had adapted the institution from Ottoman Turkish structures. A century later, the institution Rav Kook viewed with such high hopes is more frequently associated with politicization, nepotism, crushing bureaucracy and outright corruption. Although some...

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