Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef at the Western Wall.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Who do they think they are? Apparently, the self-proclaimed guardians of the faith think they are entitled to insult, disenfranchise and ridicule non-Orthodox Jews and even expel gentiles from Israel, claiming the divine right to do so. For over a month, certain ultra-Orthodox leaders have seemed to be engaged in a contest how to be the most verbally offensive.
The fact that United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush was this week given a slap on the wrist by the Knesset Ethics Committee for calling for Women of the Wall members to be “sent to the dogs” was long overdue. His reprehensible diatribes against the cabinet decision to establish a section for egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall have long been excessive.
Indeed, if some of the things he said had been uttered in the Diaspora by a gentile parliamentarian, the immediate response of the Jewish community would have been to condemn them as anti-Semitic.
The committee imposed no sanction, but duly noted that Porush’s remarks “deviated radically and blatantly from the accepted way to express oneself in the Knesset or what is appropriate for an MK.”
After throwing Jewish women who would pray according to their pluralistic custom – entirely legally – to the dogs, Porush offered to apologize only if he were persuaded that they kept kosher. “I have not heard that the Women of the Wall stay away from non-kosher food and meat, and since Rashi and the Torah ruled as they ruled, and certainly if they make sure to keep kosher and declare they will not eat non-kosher meat, I will apologize to them,” he told the committee.
Porush was joined in his quest to turn back the clock of liberal Judaism to the Middle Ages by his UTJ colleague and would-be time traveler Moshe Gafni. This enlightened parliamentarian, whose coalition reward is the chairmanship of the powerful Finance Committee, declared in February that he would not recognize the Jewish identity of Reform Jews, whom he called “a bunch of clowns who stab the holy Torah.”
This precipitated a call by Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz to the haredi parties to pass legislation banning non-Orthodox and pluralist prayer at the Western Wall. He urged in a letter to UTJ chairman Ya’acov Litzman, Shas chairman Arye Deri and Gafni for them to end “the desecration of the sacred” at the site and the “ongoing provocations” of the Women of the Wall organization. Both Deri and UTJ have threatened to topple the government if the pluralistic prayer space plan is not canceled.
Not to be outdone by the haredi leadership, Shas MK Yigal Gueta introduced a motion to the Knesset’s agenda on the eve of Purim comparing Reform Jewry to Haman, saying it wants to divide and weaken the Jewish people. “They are going to bring a spiritual and material disaster. They eat away at everything good in Israel and the Jewish people,” he said.
Gueta called the Reform Movement the “No. 1 reason for assimilation,” blaming it for a disconnect between young American Jews and Israel.
Former Shas chairman Eli Yishai joined the chorus.
“This is a horrible disaster and an attack on the Holy of Holies,” he told Army Radio. “The next thing we’ll see is Reform Jews putting tefillin on dogs and calling them up to the Torah.”
No review of ultra-Orthodox contempt for the non-ultra- Orthodox would be complete without reference to Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef. On a recent weekly Saturday night radio talk, he declared that non-Jews could live in Israel only if they observe the seven Noahide Laws. These include prohibitions against idolatry, blaspheming God, murder, forbidden sexual relations, stealing and eating the limb of a live animal, and which proscribe the establishment of a legal system. Non- Jews, Yosef said, are in Israel only to serve Jews.
“According to Jewish law, gentiles should not live in the Land of Israel,” he said. “If a gentile does not agree to take on the seven Noahide Laws, we should send him to Saudi Arabia. When the true and complete redemption arrives, that is what we will do.”
Public outrage forced Yosef to clarify that he only meant what would happen when the messiah comes.
Until that day arrives, however, those who wait so fervidly should choose their words more carefully.