Israel's largest Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) news site Kikar HaShabbat published an editorial on Thursday bashing the Shas Party bill promoting six months in prison or a NIS 10,000 fine for women who wear a prayer shawl, dress immodestly or reads from the Torah at the Western Wall.
"Imprisonment for immodest clothing; The ultra-orthodox law that will increase the desecration of the Western Wall," is the headline of the editorial. "It is clear that this bill will only increase the provocations at the Western Wall and intensify the desecration of the most sacred place [for Jews] - along with increasing the polarization of the nation and the hatred of the religious communities," Kikar HaShabbat said. "Take a step back right now," the headline concluded.
The editorial explained that the Shas bill "does not befit the sanctity of the Western Wall," and "is causing a public and political uproar - rightly so."
Rare and dramatic opposition
This is a dramatic opposition to the Haredi leadership, something the ultra-orthodox media rarely do since many of them are also funded by the different parties. Kikar HaShabbat is an independent business and therefore, at times, they are brave and daring when it comes to ideological issues.
"The bill stunned the media, and [stunned us] too - but not for the same reasons," the editorial said. "There are many religious or traditional Jews, in the country and in the diaspora, for whom Judaism is very important, some of them even made aliyah out of an aspiration to fulfill the will of the creator, while leaving a comfortable and happy life in the diaspora... Those families want the country to be Jewish and preserve its Jewish identity at all costs, which is very important to them."
But they explained that "most ultra-orthodox Israeli Jews don't want their personal religious affiliation to be the only affiliation in the country."
"During all the years of the state's existence, the ultra-orthodox public never aspired to rule or be in the leadership of the state. The ambition has always been to receive what we deserve, and to live our lives of Torah and holiness, quietly and modestly.
"But the Shas bill in question is one step too far in the arrogance that the ultra-orthodox parties have recently taken. There is no doubt that the Kotel is a holy place, the holiest [site for Jews] - and that's how we treat it," the editorial continued.
They then asked: "Will the proposed law increase modesty at the Western Wall? Or rather provocations initiated by various women's organizations that visit there every Rosh Chodesh [the first day of a Jewish month], which will increase the desecration of the holy place."
They confided that "we at Kikar HaShabbat have been consistently refraining for several years from covering the monthly provocations of those organizations, for a clear and singular reason," they said of Women of the Wall. "Any reference to them fuels them and gives them unlimited power around the world."
"We are doubly puzzled about the Shas Party," the editorial stated. "What is its obsession at a time like this, when the religious community is attacked from all over, [to offer another bill]? Why fuel the [flames of] war?"
The editorial said that in their view, this bill "increases polarization, hatred and provokes rejection by the nation of Israel, in a place that is sacred to all of us."
They concluded by stating that "this is exactly the time for the Shas Party, headed by MK Aryeh Deri, to take a step back and find the right wording that will increase the sanctity of the Kotel, not at the expense of the unity of the Jewish people."