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A week after attempted beard-cutting attack, Haredi MK says he is still fearful

‘I managed to push the man away and he didn’t reach my beard, but if the scissors had gone into my eye? What then?’ says United Torah Judaism lawmaker Meir Porush

Shalom Yerushalmi is the political analyst for Zman Israel, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew current affairs website

MK Meir Porush attends a Knesset Arrangements Committee meeting in Jerusalem on June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Meir Porush attends a Knesset Arrangements Committee meeting in Jerusalem on June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A week after he was attacked on a Jerusalem street, United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush says that he is still worried for his safety.

“I’m afraid,” he told Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew sister site, in his first interview since the incident last Monday. “I’m still afraid. It was not a simple thing.”

In the attack, two assailants cornered Porush, 66, as he left his home in Jerusalem. The two men, both reportedly in ultra-Orthodox garb, rode up to the lawmaker on electric scooters.

One of the men approached the Knesset member and asked if he was Porush, who responded by confirming his identity. The attacker then tried to cut his beard, but Porush was able to push him away, and he did not require medical treatment.

Porush told Zman Yisrael that police have yet to locate and detain his assailants, but he remains hopeful they will be caught.

“It was [right before] Yom Kippur and then it was Shabbat,” he said. “There have only been four [working] days. I hope they will catch them soon.”

Less than a week after the attack took place, Porush was still fearful as he recalled the incident.

“They came at me with scissors,” he recounted. “What is that? My suit still has a hole from the scissors. I managed to push the man away and he didn’t reach my beard, but if the scissors had gone into my eye? What then?”

A hole in the suit of United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush made by an attacker who attempted to cut his beard on September 13, 2021. (Courtesy)

Porush said that as soon as one of the men confirmed his identity, he “took out scissors from somewhere and came to cut my beard. It was awful. He didn’t say anything, he just came at me. I’m a big guy and I succeeded in pushing him away, but he didn’t flinch and he even managed to grab my beard.”

The UTJ lawmaker said he believes the man was “scared off by screams. I screamed with all my might and I saw he was afraid. Then he got back on his electric scooter and fled.”

Beard-cutting is seen as a particularly humiliating and demeaning attack on ultra-Orthodox men, many of whom maintain long beards for religious reasons. During the Holocaust, Nazi soldiers would humiliate Jewish men by roughly cutting off their beards in public.

Porush said he does not know if the man who attacked him was himself ultra-Orthodox, despite reports indicating that he was. “How could I know? He had a helmet on the entire time and he didn’t take it off.”

Ultra-Orthodox extremists have attacked Porush in the past. In 2018, when he was deputy education minister, he was attacked by an angry mob of ultra-Orthodox residents in Beit Shemesh over his support for Israeli draft laws that had increased the quota of ultra-Orthodox men who would serve in the army. Videos of the incident show Porush escaping several dozen men who chased him out of the neighborhood and damaged his car.

But the Knesset member said he doesn’t know who would be motivated today to attack him like that.

“There is no tension among the Haredi community against me,” he told Zman Yisrael. “There aren’t any current fights. There are no billboards against me in the streets. There is no major controversial issue on the table. I really don’t know why they attacked me like that.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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