Israel’s Netta performs “Toy” during the Semi-Final 1 for Eurovision Song Contest 2018 in Lisbon.
(photo credit: PEDRO NUNES/REUTERS)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett wearing tefillin boxes on his head mimicking Netta Barzilai’s ponytails might strike some as funny, but the country’s religious leadership, and even the prime minister himself, did not appreciate the joke.
The storm arose after the political satire show Eretz Nehederet poked fun at how political leaders have swooned in collective adulation at Barzilai’s Eurovision Song Contest win last weekend, with impersonators of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bennett idolizing the singer by mimicking her distinctive coiffure.
Netanyahu was given two gray swirly hair buns to match his silver mane, while Bennett’s impersonator sported what appeared to be two empty tefillin boxes perched on either side of his head.
Outrage and denunciation from the chief rabbi, and the heads of the haredi political parties United Torah Judaism and Shas, was quick in coming, as they fulminated at Eretz Nehederet
’s sacrilege on Wednesday night.
“Use of holy articles to disparage, ridicule and offend is awful and terrible, it’s something totally unacceptable that something like this is broadcast on Israeli television,” Chief Rabbi David Lau fumed, adding that the use of the tefillin boxes in this way “trampled on the sensitivities of millions of Jews.”
The real Bennett, who is chairman of Bayit Yehudi, posted a picture on his Facebook page of him wearing tefillin, saying “they can make fun of me as much as they want, but [to make fun of] tefillin and the holy things of Israel – no,” adding somberly that he was a proud tefillin wearer and a proud Jew.
UTJ chairman and Deputy Health Minister MK Ya’acov Litzman declared he was “very outraged” by the contemptuous use of tefillin by Eretz Nehederet
, saying it was “a severe injury to Jewish tradition, which I strongly condemn.”
“Humor and satire also have their redlines which you don’t ever cross. The holy things of Israel and Jewish values are not displays for entertainment and ridicule. It’s an utter disgrace to do offense to tefillin in the Jewish state and on official broadcasters,” said the indignant deputy minister And Shas chairman Arye Deri also weighed in, calling the show “disgraceful and insulting” for having mocked tefillin, “which Jews gave up their lives to use throughout the generations.”
Netanyahu also deemed it to be worthy of comment, tweeting “You don’t have to wear a kippa to understand the importance of our tradition and the future of our people. It is the essence of our existence.
It is what distinguishes and strengthens us. I am in favor of satire, but there are things you just don’t do.”Eretz Nehederet
said in response that the show was simply trying to reflect the broad public interest in Barzilai’s win.
“Netta’s hairstyle was incorporated on the heads of some of the characters participating in the skit, in different forms.
There was no intention of hurting or degrading,” the show said.