A dozen protesters from the far-right anti-assimilation group Lehava on Sunday demonstrated outside a Christmas event at Jerusalem’s YMCA, decrying what they termed the “murder” of Jewish souls.
Shouting, “You murdered us in exile,” and condemning European blood libels and historical persecution of the Jews, the small group waved Israeli flags and sang Hanukkah songs outside the venue, with some signs urging all the “impure” Christians to leave the Holy Land.
Bentzi Gopstein, the head of the organization, told The Times of Israel that it was the first time his group was protesting the annual Christmas bazaar.
“This year, they invited all the Jews of Israel, publicized ads in Hebrew throughout Jerusalem and invited Jewish children to get Christmas presents,” he said of the YMCA event.
“We think that, just as the Arabs are not successful in beating us with stabbings, so too, Christians won’t be successful in swaying Jewish children with gifts. We don’t need their presents. The Christians should stay Christian; the Jews should stay Jewish. We don’t want to learn their religion,” he added.
“We don’t want to teach them about Hanukkah, and don’t want them to teach us about Christmas,” he went on, as fellow protester Baruch Marzel — who ran unsuccessfully for Knesset in the elections earlier this year — sang the traditional “Maoz Tzur” Hanukkah song in the background.
Eli Rakov, a Lehava protester, cried out: “You murdered our bodies, now you want to murder our souls.”
Lehava was established as an organization aiming to prevent marriage between Jews and Arabs, which is prohibited according to religious Jewish law. The group has become identified with the extreme Jewish right and its members have been seen patrolling downtown Jerusalem on some evenings, looking, they claim, for mixed couples.
Their vigilante patrols have often degenerated into scuffles, and there were several instances over the past year where members of the organization have beaten Arabs. Most of the organization’s members are teens.
Some Israeli politicians have been calling on the government to outlaw the group, whose members have been implicated in several hate crimes.