Ultra-Orthodox masses told elections are ‘fight for the honor of Heaven’

Gafni: Elections are ‘a war for every holy thing there is.

By
September 15, 2019 23:11
MK Moshe Gafni speaks in an ultra-Orthodox rally

MK Moshe Gafni speaks in an ultra-Orthodox rally. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox men and some women flocked to the climactic mass rally of the United Torah Judaism party  in Jerusalem on Sunday to see and hear their great rabbinical leaders, to “sanctify God,” and to hear that the election is a fight for God’s honor.

According to the organizers, some 150,000 people attended the rally along with leading rabbinical figures of the hassidic and non-hassidic communities, including Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter – the Grand Rabbe of the Gur hassidic community – and numerous other leaders from the Councils of Torah Sages of both communities.

“We are praying ‘Our Father in heaven, thwart the designs of our enemies and are accusers,’” declared UTJ leader Yaakov Litzman in his address, invoking the language used in the prayers of the High Holy Days in two weeks. “What are we fighting for? For the honor of Heaven, for the right to be ultra-Orthodox and to observe the commandments, to lead a life of Torah and faith,” he continued.

The harsh language used by political opponents of the ultra-Orthodox political parties, as well as their stated intent to exclude those parties from government, has given UTJ and its Sephardi counterpart Shas ample opportunity to dramatize the supposed dangers to the ultra-Orthodox community should those parties take power.

“Let us think how the world would respond if they would have declared [they wanted] a government without Ethiopians or Druze,” continued Litzman. “But it’s okay to harm the ultra-Orthodox, to slander and disparage Jewish values,” he declared. “The honor of ultra-Orthodox Judaism rests upon the shoulders of every individual.”

UTJ MK Moshe Gafni spoke in even more militant terms, describing the election as “a war for every holy thing there is,” and that UTJ would “not allow the holy Torah to be harmed.”

These messages of a war for Judaism in the State of Israel have been strongly adopted by the ultra-Orthodox community at large.

Yehudah, a middle-aged man who studies in the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem, told The Jerusalem Post that he came “because the rabbis told us to,” and to demonstrate the strength of the ultra-Orthodox community and thus “sanctify God’s name.”

Yehudah said he believed there was indeed an attempt to force a secular lifestyle on the ultra-Orthodox community. “They want to draft yeshiva students in the army, they want to force us to teach certain content in our schools, and they even want to force us to have our cultural events be mixed-gender,” he argued.

He rejected the claims of Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, whose common refrain is that his party wants to “live and let live,” saying that allowing things like public transportation on Shabbat and civil marriage would have negative spiritual consequences resulting in “the Land of Israel vomiting us out” as it says in the Bible (Leviticus 18:28).

Yehudah added that he believed the exhortations of the leading rabbis that it was a religious obligation to vote, despite the seeming dissonance between the temporal nature of politics and the spiritual realm in which religion resides.

“For us, this isn’t political,” he explained. “Politics allows you to bring about spiritual achievements, to receive budgets to open synagogues and ritual baths, so voting for the ultra-Orthodox parties allows you to achieve religious goals and fulfill the commandments.”

Yisrael, another attendee at the rally who also studies in the Mir Yeshiva, was of similar mind. He too said he came because he was instructed so by his rabbis, and that was the only reason he needed to attend.

Yisrael said that his rabbis had felt it important that they hear the words of the rabbis and politicians “to wake us up to these serious times, to the haters of religion who want to uproot everything holy.”

Yisrael also emphasized how the ultra-Orthodox parties’ policies demanding the preservation of various aspects of religious observance in the public realm was in fact an obligation that the ultra-Orthodox community takes on behalf of the greater Jewish people.

“All Jews are responsible for each other,” Yisrael said. “I need to ensure that others can observe Shabbat if they so wish.”

Meanwhile, in his latest offering of doomsday prophecies for the future of Judaism in the Jewish state, Shas chairman and Interior Minister Arye Deri said on Saturday night that a war is being waged against God and Judaism by the left-wing and centrist parties, which say they will not sit in a government with the ultra-Orthodox political factions.

Speaking at an election rally in the Yazd Synagogue in Jerusalem, Deri recalled that during the last election on April 9, there had been concerns that Shas would fall below the 3.25% electoral threshold and fail to make it into the Knesset. But the “danger” was now greater, he said, since Judaism itself was under threat.

“Today the danger is much greater than what it was three and a half months ago when we had no doubt that the rule of the Right, the religious Zionists and the ultra-Orthodox would continue,” said Deri.

“Right now, the danger is for the Shas movement but against all of Judaism in Israel and around the world. They have declared war against us, against God, against Judaism and everything connected to it,” he declared.

Deri sought to scare ultra-Orthodox voters further by saying that according to the polls, the right-wing no longer has a majority, and that the left-wing is likely to get the chance to establish the next government.

Polls indicate, however, that the center-left has virtually no chance of establishing a government by itself, since Blue and White – together with the left-wing parties – are polling near 40%, not including the Joint List of Arab parties who will almost certainly not join a government.

“God forbid, if these polls turn out to be true the mandate to establish the government will pass to the left-wing, to a government that has declared war against Judaism.”

Deri also complained that when incitement is made by public figures against the Arab sector, President Reuven Rivlin condemns it, but that no one condemns political parties “when Judaism is ruled out, when traditional people in the State of Israel are ruled out.”

Deri was referencing the pledges of Liberman and Blue and White co-chair Benny Gantz, who said that they will only agree to a national unity government without the ultra-Orthodox and religious-Zionist political parties.


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