Haredi leaders: Don’t sit in US and interfere with religion in Israel

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June 27, 2017 02:26

“The cries of the Reform are similar to someone who murdered their father and then asked the court for mercy because he is an orphan,” said Gafni.

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People participate in the "Celebrate Israel" parade along 5th Ave. in New York City, US, June 4 2017

People participate in the "Celebrate Israel" parade along 5th Ave. in New York City, US, June 4, 2017. . (photo credit:REUTERS/STEPHANIE KEITH)

United Torah Judaism leader MK Moshe Gafni stated bluntly on Monday that the haredi parties would not accept a situation in which the Reform and Conservative movements try to change the status quo on religion through petitions to the High Court of Justice.

Gafni, along with Shas Chairman Interior Minister Arye Deri and Chief Rabbi David Lau, hit back strongly at the torrent of condemnation toward the government unleashed by Jewish leaders in Israel and the Diaspora, and by the opposition in Knesset following Sunday’s cancellation of the Western Wall agreement.

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Speaking to reporters in the Knesset, Gafni said that UTJ and Shas did not seek to pass legislation, make government decisions, or take other action against progressive Jews, but would immediately file legislation to circumvent any change to the status quo on religion and state issues affected by rulings of the High Court.

He also claimed that the progressive Jewish denominations do not care about the Western Wall at all, and alleged that they only sought an egalitarian prayer area at the site to taunt haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and religious Jews.

“The cries of the Reform are similar to someone who murdered their father and then asked the court for mercy because he is an orphan,” said Gafni, using an old joke about the definition of “chutzpah” to make his point.

“They sit in the US, and they interfere with what is going on here, they don’t have enough votes for even one Knesset seat and they tell us what to do by going to the High Court, which is in its Jewish and religious opinions similar to the Reform,” he fumed.

The fiery MK argued that had the Reform and Conservative movements not petitioned the High Court to force the state to allow their converts to use public mikvaot, or ritual baths, for conversions, UTJ and Shas would never have advanced their legislation to circumvent the High Court ruling, which required the state rule in favor of the petition by progressive Jewish denominations.

“Everything that we have done is because they’re appealing to the High Court, and they have succeeded through these petitions to violate the status quo to our detriment, but no longer. We won’t allow it.”

Gafni said if there is no ruling on a case before the High Court on granting state recognition to Reform and Conservative conversions, the haredi parties will drop the controversial conversion bill approved by the government on Sunday that would preemptively circumvent such a ruling.

“They can’t file High Court petitions from the US and then accuse us of causing a split in the Jewish people,” he argued.

Gafni also alleged that the Western Wall was unimportant to non-Orthodox Jews, pointing to the removal in the past from some Reform liturgy of references to the return to Zion and the reestablishment of Temple service.

Deri also took aim at “Reform organizations,” which he said were trying to destroy the unity of the Jewish people.

The interior minister went one step further, accusing the proponents of the Western Wall agreement of trying to topple the government by forcing the prime minister to implement the decision and thereby compel the haredi parties to quit the coalition.

Chief Rabbi David Lau made an attempt to reach out to Diaspora Jewry in a short video address in Hebrew, in which he appealed to his “brothers and friends around the world.”

Lau accused “fringe elements” of stirring up divisions around the Western Wall, and said that prayer at the site should be respectful of all Jews.

“The Western Wall belongs to everyone,” said Lau. “Everyone is able, invited and should come to it and feel a connection to it and pray there. Jews and non-Jews can come, Jews from different places and backgrounds can come and pray there.

“This is not the time to waste energy on division and arguments, and for sure not at a place of holiness. Let’s pray in a way that respects each other and pray together because we are one people,” Lau said.

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