Israel – In light of the persistent contravention by haredi political parties of electoral regulations prohibiting the promise of spiritual or worldly benefit to voters, the Hiddush religious freedom NGO will submit a request tomorrow to the elections committee to issue an advanced warning that such practices are banned.

Israeli election law prohibits anyone from promising spiritual reward, blessings, health, or wealth if a voter chooses a particular political party and amulets, or curses or threats of spiritual punishment for not voting in the correct manner, yet haredi parties frequently flout this law as do the rabbis associated with them.

Hiddush will request that Supreme Court Justice Salim Jourban who heads the Central Elections Committee issue a warning as soon as possible reiterating the ban on such practices and underlining the potential fines which can be imposed for contravening the law on this issue.

Just last week, a well know political activist for the Ashkenazi Degel HaTorah party Rabbi Mordechai Bloi said that women who did not vote for the United Torah Judaism party, of which Degel is a constituent, should be excommunicated and their children expelled from UTJ run schools.

And numerous complaints were filed to the Central Elections Committee during the municipal elections in October 2013 and the general election in January that year.

In one example during the general election, a complaint was filed by Hiddush over a smartphone application launched by Shas on which one could request a blessing from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the late, revered spiritual guide of the party.

In the municipal elections, Shas promised that those who vote for Jerusalem Mayor candidate Moshe Lion, who was backed by Shas, would will receive “a blessing from God for long life, health, joy, and goodness in their years.”

In another instance, the administration of a girls school belonging to the Shas Maayan HaTorah school network sent a letter to parents telling them to vote for Shas in accordance with the instructions of Yosef.

“We therefore ask for all parents to abide by the instructions of “Maran” [Rabbi Yosef] and we as a school operating under the [Shas-led] ‘Spring of Torah Education’ network are obligated to… vote together for Shas,” the letter read.

In one case during the general election, the Shas party handed out religious amulets which are also prohibited. Although the Central Elections Committee fined Shas NIS 37,000 over the incident, fines are rarely imposed.

Additionally, the process of filing a complaint and obtaining a ruling can take several days by which time political advertisements, flyers and other electoral material will have already been disseminated.