The chairman of the Eretz Hakodesh movement, Rabbi Pesach Lerner, called upon the Israeli Supreme Court to place an immediate hold on the transfer of NIS 30 million to the Reform movement.

Rabbi Lerner, on behalf of the Eretz HaKodesh organization, recently filed an urgent petition to the Israeli Supreme Court for an immediate freeze of the transfer of funds to a joint venture of the Ministry of Diaspora and the Panim organization to establish a so-called “Office of Jewish Renewal,” which was approved from coalition funds of the Labor Party. 

As readers may recall, several weeks ago, an in-depth investigation was conducted by journalist Kalman Libeskind in the Ma'ariv newspaper, revealing that the procedure for establishing the Office of Jewish Renewal in collaboration with the Panim organization was carried out in an improper manner, raising suspicion of improprieties. Libeskind highlighted the involvement of MK Gilad Kariv in the project, raising serious questions about the approval of the project.

The Ma’ariv investigation enumerated questions surrounding the transfer of NIS 30 million to the Panim organization, of which MK Kariv served as a member, and the fact that the Diaspora Ministry did not hesitate in any way to transfer tens of millions of shekels without a bidding process as required by law, without criteria, to an entity that has no serious financial management or organizational experience.

The establishment of the Office of Jewish Renewal and the budgeting of the project are the implementation of a clause in the coalition agreement that was signed when the Labor faction entered the government. MK Kariv, who previously served as the chairman of the Reform movement in Israel, promoted the introduction of the clause and took an active role in its approval in the state budget for 2022. However, it has emerged that the money was allocated to the Panim organization, in which MK Kariv was involved as an executive committee member. MK Kariv's connections with Panim did not prevent him from dealing with the budget, as illegal as that is. 

A few days after the publication of the investigation, Libeskind revealed that even before the Ministry of Diaspora approved the project, the deputy legal counsel to the Ministry of Justice forwarded to the ombudsman of Knesset a statement highlighting the legal difficulty of carrying out the project without governmental approval for the Ministry of Diaspora to proceed. The ombudsman clarified that as the project's budget increases, there is even greater difficulty providing legal basis for the decision.

Following these disturbing findings, a number of Knesset members, along with Rabbi Lerner, appealed to the ombudsman, demanding that the project be frozen. After the ombudsman's response was not forthcoming, Rabbi Lerner, on behalf of Eretz HaKodesh, appealed to the Supreme Court, asking for a freeze on the project and for there to be an emergency session to examine the disturbing revelations related to this project.

Rabbi Lerner’s petition explains the concern over the attempt to distribute public coalition funds, in the tens of millions of shekel, transferring them in a circular way to a private association that is connected to a Knesset member, who actually dictated the distribution of said funds. 

This is corrupt, dishonest, and contrary to the law, averred Rabbi Lerner. 

Rabbi Lerner further stated in the explanatory notes of his petition that Eretz HaKodesh, as an international movement that works to strengthen the Jewish identity of Jews around the world, considers itself a worthy candidate to participate in activities that are carried out in the field of Jewish renewal, including the activities that fall under the umbrella of the Office of Jewish Renewal established by the Ministry of Diaspora and the Panim organization.

“In light of all this,” concluded Rabbi Lerner, “we are asking for an immediate freezing of the transfer of funds.

As of this moment, the Israeli Supreme Court has given those involved in the transfer of those funds, ten days to respond to the complaint.