Israeli rabbis express anxiety over new gov't and its policies

Rabbi Ohad Teharlev, the head of Midreshet Lindenbaum, warned of a "desecration of God's name" by the new government.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, national security minister and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich at the swearing in ceremony of the new israeli government at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on December 29, 2022. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Itamar Ben-Gvir, national security minister and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich at the swearing in ceremony of the new israeli government at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on December 29, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The new government is playing with fire by trying to implement changes that are discriminatory and racist, a group of National-Religious rabbis and educators wrote.

“We... are anxious at this time when the incoming government intends to damage fundamental moral values upon which a proper society should be founded,” wrote rabbis Ohad Teharlev, Elkana Cherlow and David Bigman and Rabbanit Carmit Feintuch, among others, according to news site Srugim.

They said the measures being taken, and the public atmosphere enabling them, disturbs them as observant Jews, as those involved in education and teaching and as citizens.

“The attempts to reduce equality in the State of Israel, to allow institutionalized discrimination of minorities, to give the government unbridled power, and to legitimize racism – all of these are very dangerous in our eyes, especially when they are presented as if they originated in the Torah.”

"The attempts to reduce equality in the State of Israel, to allow institutionalized discrimination of minorities, to give the government unbridled power, and to legitimize racism - all of these are very dangerous in our eyes, especially when they are presented as if they originated in the Torah of Israel."

The letter

The educators and rabbis called on the government to “base its path on the values of justice, equality and human freedom; to avoid offensive legislation that undermines the democratic foundations on which the country was built; and to engage in public needs with truth and faith.

 JOINT RABBINIC leadership: Rabbanit Carmit and Rabbi Tani Feintuch are together at the helm of Ilana De-chaye synagogue. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM) JOINT RABBINIC leadership: Rabbanit Carmit and Rabbi Tani Feintuch are together at the helm of Ilana De-chaye synagogue. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

“We call on the rabbis, rabbaniyot and men and women of education to work for the strengthening of a religious Jewish identity based on these values – and not, God forbid, on hatred of the other and on coercion.”

Lindenbaum head warns of a 'desecration of God's name'

Teharlev, the head of Midreshet Lindenbaum, a women’s seminary in Jerusalem, warned of a “desecration of God’s name” by the government, in an Army Radio interview on Sunday.

“All the voices raised recently are not in the way of the Torah. My feeling – my understanding is that this is a great and terrible desecration of God’s name,” he said, pointing to plans to form a Basic Law exempting the ultra-Orthodox from being drafted and plans to allow discrimination based on religious belief.

The rabbi warned that the government’s plan will widen the gap in society today, and it would have been preferable had these things not come to be.

“These coalition agreements – and I say this as a right-wing person – won’t succeed in changing the reality. Reality is racing forward. Already 25 years I’ve worked in empowering women and teaching Torah to women. Reality is racing forward in many fields and all that’s left to do is more things to bind us together and not separate us.

“I want to hope and pray that the people who signed all sorts of deals – that really, I think, desecrate the name of heaven in public – will enter their seats and positions and will look at the existing reality and understand that this is not the way. What did Shimon Peres once say? A leader who gets to his seat often wants to change reality until he gets to the seat and reality changes him.

Teharlev said he hopes these people will stop before it’s too late.

“I wonder if these people who are saying what they’re saying and are playing politics and pushing politics into everything really know how to see reality,” he said.

Teharlev called on the public to “protest and pray that the reality will really change. What’s certain is that we have no other land and we must protect it.”