(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said her ministry is considering initiating legislation that would have made Saturday night’s heckling of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit outside the synagogue he attends in Petah Tikva a crime.
Speaking to Army Radio on Sunday, Shaked expressed outrage that the protesters went to Mandelblit’s synagogue, Nigunei Haim in Petah Tikva’s Kfar Ganim neighborhood, and did not respect his privacy. She urged the protesters to demonstrate outside her Jerusalem office instead of near the attorney-general’s home.
“I am considering more aggressive legislation against attacking public servants that would include verbal abuse,” Shaked revealed. “The right to protest must have limits. The protesters should stop shamefully entering the private lives of public servants, who are also human. The attorney-general has a right to go to synagogue and recite the kaddish [memorial prayer] for his mother.”
Criticism of the protesters from across the political spectrum continued Sunday. Speaking to reporters outside this week’s cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz called the protesters’ actions “terror.”
But Zionist Union MK Shelly Yacimovich said after watching many video clips of the demonstration, that she does not believe the protesters did anything wrong.
“What they did might have been annoying, but it was legitimate,” Yacimovich wrote on Twitter. “They clearly didn’t know Mandelblit had to say kaddish for his mother, may her memory be for blessing. You don’t have to dance to the tunes of all the political spin of politicians who trample the rule of law.”
Mandelblit has not spoken publicly about the incident, but told his assistants that protesters heckled him when he arrived for the Ma’ariv evening prayer on Saturday. He also said they videotaped him with their phones on Shabbat.
Because protesters were still present when congregants went outside to recite the kiddush levana (blessing for the new moon), Mandelblit did not join in, missing an opportunity to say kaddish for his mother, who died three weeks ago.
At the insistence of his security guards, Mandelblit left the synagogue through a back door. Rather than walk home like he usually does, his wife came and drove him home.
The protesters vigorously denied reports that they had heckled Mandelblit during kaddish or prevented him from saying it. They also denied protesting on Shabbat, saying that they recited an alternative havdala prayer for the end of Shabbat before their protest began.
“We waited until Shabbat ended, and we coordinated everything with the police,” said protester Ina Shoval. “The sidewalk where we demonstrated does not belong to the synagogue.”
Shoval said one of the protesters was detained by police for no reason. She accused Mandelblit of ordering police to arrest the protester as revenge against her group for their weekly demonstrations.
Shoval complained that Mandelblit has not made Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a suspect in the so-called “Submarine Affair” in which Israel purchased expensive submarines from a company that employed the prime minister’s cousin and attorney, David Shimron. The protesters have vowed to return to the synagogue next week and every week until Netanyahu is indicted.