(photo credit: KNESSET)
Rabbi Benny Lau, one of the leaders of religious Zionism, vowed to “go to war” to prevent followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane from entering the Knesset, he said Saturday morning in his sermon at Jerusalem’s Ramban synagogue.
Lau expressed outrage that Kahane followers Michael Ben-Ari and Itamar Ben-Gvir were given slots on the Bayit Yehudi slate, because of Kahane’s anti-Arab agenda. He urged his congregants to research the Nazi Nuremberg laws and compare them to the bills advanced by Kahane when he was an MK in the 1980s.
The rabbi equated Kahanism with Nazism and warned that mistreating minorities goes against the Torah.
“A vote for Bayit Yehudi is a vote for the racism of Kahane,” Lau said.
Lau apologized for engaging in politics from the pulpit, but said he had no choice under such circumstances. He told his congregants that if they had a problem with his decision, he was ready to leave his post immediately.
That would not be much of a concession for Lau, who has already announced that he is leaving the congregation in the summer. Twelve candidates have applied for his job and five finalists have been chosen for the prestigious pulpit.
While multiple members of the synagogue’s board said they had no problem with what Lau said, one said there would have to be a vote in the board, saying, “if he wants to embark on a political campaign, he will have to suspend himself.”
In a post on Facebook on Thursday, Lau blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for initiating the merger of the lists of Bayit Yehudi and the Otzma Yehudit Party of Kahane’s disciples, which Netanyahu did out of concern that right-wing parties not crossing the electoral threshold could prevent him from obtaining the 61 MKs needed to form a coalition.
“In the name of love for the land of Israel and maintaining sovereignty over it, the prime minister enticed the followers of Rabbi Kook to make the abomination of racism kosher and enable it to enter the gates of the Knesset,” Lau wrote.
Lau is the first cousin of current Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, the nephew of former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and the son of the late diplomat Naphtali Lau-Lavie, who was an aide to Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Shamir and Moshe Dayan.
Lau has taken liberal positions on several issues, especially regarding the place of gay and lesbian people within society, and women’s spiritual leadership in the religious community.
Otzma Knesset candidate Ben-Ari responded: “I don’t intend to fight with him. He is not my enemy. I have other enemies.”
But Otzma candidate Ben-Gvir, who is a lawyer, threatened to sue Lau for slander.
“He knows we are not in favor of killing Arabs,” Ben-Gvir said. “He knows our platform encourages the emigration of those who are not loyal to the State of Israel. Those who are loyal, we have no problem with Ahlan wasahalan (Arabic for welcome). We will take off our gloves before Rabbi Lau, who accepts anarchists and leftist extremists and always scolds to listen to other views but when it comes to Otzma, he speaks with a new peak of primitivism and hatred.”
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>