Shouting match over kashrut dispute erupts in Knesset

In a debate over MK Elazar Stern’s doomed legislation to reform kashrut supervision, he and Religious Services Minister David Azoulay traded barbs over who was truly serving the public.

February 23, 2017 11:59
2 minute read.
knesset elazer stern

Minister, MK accuse each other of having no friends in shouting match over kashrut. (photo credit: SCREENSHOT KNESSET CHANNEL)

The interminable struggles over religion and state in the country were once again superbly underlined on Wednesday by a kindergarten- like spat between a government minister and an opposition MK in the Knesset plenum, over the perennial dispute regarding kashrut.

In a debate over MK Elazar Stern’s (Yesh Atid) doomed legislation to reform kashrut supervision, he and Religious Services Minister David Azoulay (Shas) traded barbs and mutual recriminations over who was truly serving the public.

“We’re trying to find pathways and solutions, all you try and do is destroy, to besmirch, to harm an entire community,” sputtered Azoulay, seemingly aghast at Stern’s bill, the basis of which is actually under consideration by the Chief Rabbinate.

“I’ve never heard you come with a good proposal or how to come to an understanding to advance an idea for Judaism in the State of Israel to protect the Jewish character of the state. You only care about causing more argument and more division and you don’t learn lessons,” the Shas minister charged.

In scenes reminiscent of a school playground, Azoulay then called Stern, essentially, a failure with no friends, since he has not yet been able to get any legislation he has proposed passed into law, while he was recently scolded by Yesh Atid Party chairman Yair Lapid for insulting Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.

Stern, as is his wont, wasn’t exactly restrained in his riposte.

“I won’t descend to your level,” barked the pugnacious MK, a promise he quickly reneged on, as he promptly engaged in his own personal attack on the minister and his own lack of friends.

“I won’t say what they say in the Shas faction why you’re the Religious Services Minister and not someone else,” Stern sniped, a reference to the short leash on which Shas chairman Arye Deri has Azoulay and allegations that he was appointed due to his obedience to the party leader.

“I won’t say it,” he repeated rather unconvincingly in the face of his own none-tosubtle insinuations, as Azoulay, arms crossed, squirmed uncomfortably in his seat.

“I expect that one time you’ll bring a position which is your own, which did not need an approval, which has integrity,” Stern continued with a grim smirk, then asked the minister if had even read the bill, as Azoulay feigned disinterest while talking on his cellphone.

“My bill is hatred?” asked Stern, perplexed, given its relatively simple goal of creating competition between local rabbinates for the provision of kashrut supervision, a measure designed to improve the service provided.

“I’m hurting the Jewish identity of the State of Israel!” he exclaimed. “I came to this place to repair the destruction you’ve done to the relationship between religion and state,” he continued with indignation, then declared in conclusion, “I came here so Judaism would draw people in and not distance them, and because people unfortunately have given up on Judaism.”

His bill, unsurprisingly, was defeated.

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