Dozens of ultra-Orthodox revelers set fire to an effigy of Finance Minister Yair Lapid Saturday night in the northern city of Tiberias, protesting what they consider his aggressive anti-religious policies.
At a gathering near the Sea of Galilee, the group of ultra-Orthodox partiers prepared a bonfire and placed a straw man with Lapid’s visage atop a mountain of wood. Jews mark Lag B’Omer, the traditional date of the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a first-century CE sage, with celebration, bonfires and feasts.
According to the ultra-Orthodox website “Haredim 10,” each year the children of the religious community choose an enemy whose effigy will be burned on the pyre. “This year the dubious honor of unanimous Haredi public enemy was: Finance Minister Yair Lapid,” the site reported.
Lapid’s moves to increase ultra-Orthodox enlistment into the IDF have been met by fierce protest from members of the religious community, thousands of whom have demonstrated against what they perceive as a threat to their way of life.
“It is an embarrassment for the entire Jewish people that hooligans and bullies like these wear a kippa and tzitzit,” MK Rabbi Dov Lipman of Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party said in a statement. “Their rabbis should wake up and speak out against this. And if they don’t then they are not worthy of being called leaders or rabbis. The place for these people is in jail!”
Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) also condemned the “full-fledged act of violence” of torching Lapid’s image.
“Even if there are serious differences of opinion, they absolutely can’t stoop to such levels and I am sure that the general public condemns such acts,” Ariel said.
In Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim, members of the anti-Zionist group Neturei Karta on Saturday night torched Israeli flags in the streets as revelers danced around the fires.