"God hasn't always shielded us, especially in Europe," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday, concerning God's protection of the Jewish people, when he wanted to warn of the security risk of visiting the graves of hassidic rabbis during Rosh Hashanah. Netanyahu's statement has sparked a significant reaction from religious communities in Israel.
The prime minister, addressing those contemplating a pilgrimage to Uman, Ukraine for Rosh Hashanah, sought to emphasize the potential dangers of the journey. "Israeli citizens traveling to Ukraine must take personal responsibility. There are no safeguards there," he stated. The controversial part of his remarks followed, "Historically, God hasn't always shielded us, especially in Europe and Ukraine."
Shas: God has always watched over the Jews, if they abide by the Torah
Religious Israelis took exception to the notion, interpreting it as a suggestion that God had not consistently protected Jews throughout history.
In a quick response, the Shas Party, representing a significant portion of Israel's Sephardi religious population, countered Netanyahu's remarks. "God has perpetually watched over the people of Israel through all trials," they said.
Their statement went on to argue that the Jewish people's survival over millennia, in the face of countless challenges and while other powerful nations disappeared, attested to divine protection. They added that this divine guidance is, however, "conditional on upholding faith and abiding by the Torah and its commandments."
UTJ MK: Diaspora Jews live in relative peace and quiet compared to Israelis
United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler issued a response to what he called "Netanyahu's words of ignorance," stating "The Zionists and the partisans did not prevent a holocaust in Europe. The Germans were stopped on the way to occupying the Land of Israel by miracles and not because of the Zionists."
Eichler added that some members of the Judenrat collaborated with the Nazis and accused Zionist leaders of refusing to approve plans to rescue Jews from the Holocaust.
"Even after the Holocaust, all the Jewish migrants in the Diaspora have since lived in relative peace and quiet," claimed Eichler. "Only in the Land of Israel has Jewish blood been shed like water, from then until now. The danger of nuclear annihilation threatens only the State of Israel."
"Recently, the incompetence and vileness of the false idols of power and the failures of the government were revealed in the Yom Kippur War 1973. The 'generals' who are the 'rebels' today, are inciting a bloody war inside the Jewish ghetto in the Land of Israel. When you see who the generals were, you realize that only by the miracles of Hashem, the God of Israel, did we survive."
"The 'generals' who are the 'rebels' today, are inciting a bloody war inside the Jewish ghetto in the Land of Israel. When you see who the generals were, you realize that only by the miracles of Hashem, the God of Israel, did we survive."UTJ MK Yisrael Eichler
"The leaders of the High Court's dictatorship war have become whistleblowers against Israel all over the world and accuse it of apartheid and war crimes, like the worst enemies of Islam. Shame on you when you blame the God of Israel for your failures and crimes."
"At a time when terrorism is rampant and the streets are burning, we should pray to the Guardian of Israel. If not for the right of Torah followers, the State of Israel would have been erased from the map of the Middle East a long time ago."
Every year, tens of thousands of Jewish pilgrims travel to Uman, Ukraine, to visit the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, a renowned Hasidic leader.
This pilgrimage occurs around Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and has become a significant spiritual event for many within the Breslov Hasidic community and other Jewish devotees. The pilgrimage symbolizes a time of reflection, prayer, and connection, but also comes with logistical and security concerns given the sheer number of attendees.
Response from MK Tally Gotliv
MK Tally Gotliv, from Netanyahu's Likud party, also issued a condemnation of the prime minister's remarks.
"It is forbidden to make an account of the Lord of the world," Gotliv wrote on X, formerly Twitter on Sunday evening. "Where was the Holy One, blessed be He, and why did this happen, it is not within your knowledge."
The Likud MK went on to add, "I will remind you of the words of our sages that are not suitable for warning about a trip to Ukraine: 'and keep yourselves very safe.' The staff from your office who issued such a message in your name would not work for me for a minute."