Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Aryeh Stern win close election after long and hard-fought campaign
After more than a decade without, Jerusalem finally has two new Chief Rabbis.
The capital city's 48-member council began voting at the Jerusalem Municipal Hall at 4 p.m., with an initial list of 19 candidates for the Chief Ashkenazic and Sephardic positions whittled down to just nine, after several candidates withdrew over the past few days.
Polling closed at 7 p.m., and results were announced just before the 8 p.m. deadline.
Former Israeli Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar was elected as the new Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, with 28 votes, while Rabbi Aryeh Stern of the Halacha Brura Institute was voted in as Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi with 27.
Following the results' announcement, Rabbi Stern - who was a close student of the late Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook - vowed to represent all the people of Jerusalem.
"It is in my intention to serve as the rabbi of all Jerusalemites: secular, modern-orthodox and charedi alike," he said in a statement. "The Jerusalem rabbinate is a great merit, but it also comprises a hefty responsibility. I will make sure that the religious services will become accessible and friendly and will serve as an outstanding model for all of the other rabbinates in Israel"
The Jewish Home party - whose leader Economics Minister Naftali Bennett was one of Rabbi Stern's main backers, along with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat - issued a statement of congratulations to both winners, celebrating the fact that both Chief Rabbis were heavily favored by much of the religious-Zionist camp.
"Jerusalem is in the hands of Zionism. The Jewish Home blesses the Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem, Rabbi Aryeh Stern and Rabbi Shlomo Amar, on their election."
"This is a great victories for the lovers of the nation of Israel, the land of Israel and the Torah of Israel," the statement continued.
The current Chief Rabbi of the northern city of Tzfat (Safed), Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, had been considered a favorite to win the Sephardic Chief Rabbi position, but was beaten off by Rabbi Amar after a belated endorsement for the latter by the Shas party.
They were among six rabbis running for that position, including the rabbi of the city of Elad, Rabbi Mordechai Malka; former Shas MK and current leader of the Am-Shalem party, Rabbi Chaim Amsalem; Rabbi Yehuda Chaik; and Rabbi Mordechai Toledano, son-in-law of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
There were just three candidates standing for the position of Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, two of whom were joint-favorites: Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lau - brother of Israeli Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi David Lau and the current rabbi of Netanya, who was favored by hareidi factions; and the victor, Rabbi Aryeh Stern, who was favored by the religious-Zionist camp.
Rabbi Yehoshua Zander was the third candidate.
The positions were vacant following the deaths of the previous Jerusalem Chief Rabbis in 2003. (INN)