Naftali Bennett blasted for flying on holiday for US Jews

Shas MK Moshe Abutbul: Change your itinerary or face the wrath of God.

 Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends a memorial ceremony for the fallen Israeli soldiers of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, at the National Hall of Remembrance, Mount Herzl, Jerusalem, September 19, 2021.  (photo credit: OHAD ZWIGENBERG)
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends a memorial ceremony for the fallen Israeli soldiers of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, at the National Hall of Remembrance, Mount Herzl, Jerusalem, September 19, 2021.
(photo credit: OHAD ZWIGENBERG)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett faced criticism from haredi (ultra-Orthodox) opposition MKs for scheduling his flight home from New York after the UN General Assembly on a day when the holiday of Simhat Torah is over in Israel but continues for American Jews.

The first religiously observant prime minister, Bennett also caused an uproar two weeks ago when he traveled on Shabbat to police headquarters to oversee efforts to find the six terrorists who had escaped from prison. As he did when he was defense minister, Bennett uses a special dispensation of pikuah nefesh (saving lives) to work on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush said that when Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, was abroad dealing with matters of state, he would always make a point of walking instead of driving on Shabbat and holidays.

“Bennett cannot act differently than Ben-Gurion because it would weaken Judaism, violate the holiday and desecrate God’s name,” Porush said.

Rabbi Meir Porush picks his ballot for the mayoral election in Jerusalem November 11, 2008. (credit: REUTERS/GIL COHEN MAGEN)Rabbi Meir Porush picks his ballot for the mayoral election in Jerusalem November 11, 2008. (credit: REUTERS/GIL COHEN MAGEN)

Shas MK Moshe Abutbul, who heads the Knesset caucus on keeping the Shabbat, called upon Bennett to change the itinerary of his trip or risk the wrath of God.

“It is shameful and embarrassing that Bennett, who wears a kippah, does not respect the Sabbath and holidays, as he is expected to do as a symbol of the government in a Jewish state,” Abutbul said. “It would not harm anyone if he would wait to leave, instead of forcing the Jews working for Israel in New York to violate the holiday. His obsession with scoring diplomatic points at the expense of maintaining our tradition that was strictly maintained by his predecessors who did not wear kippot will explode in his face, because those who do not respect Shabbat and holidays do not merit the help of God, and their work is not blessed with success.”

Bennett was defended by veteran Jerusalem Post columnist Stewart Weiss, an Orthodox rabbi and neighbor of the prime minister in Ra’anana, who has been in touch with him in the past but did not speak to him about this issue.

“Technically, once the holiday is over for him, he can travel,” Weiss said. “There is the consideration that a resident of the Land of Israel should keep actions that are prohibited to the local Jewish community out of the public view, so as not to confuse people as to when the holiday ends.

“But in my opinion, the fact that the prime minister must return to Israel to manage the country – and all the life-affecting decisions that entails – is an extenuating circumstance that allows him to come home as quickly as possible once the holiday ends for him. At the same time, efforts must be made to limit any desecration of the holiday by local Jews who do not have this same dispensation.”

Bennett’s spokesman said the criticism was nonsense.

“That is only for the Americans,” he said. “We are not American.”