After megaphone tussle, Rothman’s wife says she felt ‘assaulted’ by NY hecklers

Hannah Rothman decries demonstrators’ insults, says male protesters made her uncomfortable, but cuts off interview when questioned about husband’s lack of ‘British composure’

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

Hannah Rothman speaks to Channel 12 news from New York on June 4, 2023. (screen capture: Channel 12; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Hannah Rothman speaks to Channel 12 news from New York on June 4, 2023. (screen capture: Channel 12; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The wife of Knesset Member Simcha Rothman said Sunday she felt “assaulted” by US-based protesters who confronted the couple in New York City over the weekend, after which her husband angrily wrestled a megaphone out of one of the demonstrator’s hands.

Hannah Rothman abruptly ended her interview with Channel 12’s Rafi Reshef after he attempted to press her on what dangers she faced and described her husband as “not exactly known for his British composure and placidity.”

The Religious Zionism party lawmaker, a key architect of the government’s controversial plan to overhaul the judiciary, has been singled out by protesters who have regularly hounded him in Israel.

Israeli expatriates and visitors opposed to the plan took up the baton as Rothman and other members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition visited New York over the weekend.

In video footage from the altercation Friday night, Simcha Rothman can be seen walking down a New York sidewalk with his wife and three Knesset bodyguards. Several protesters are seen and heard surrounding the Rothmans and the bodyguards, including at least one person with a megaphone, and demonstrators can be heard accusing the lawmaker of destroying Israel’s economy and telling him to go home.

At a certain moment, Simcha Rothman suddenly turns around and forcefully grabs a red megaphone out of the hands of a woman a few steps behind him.

The MK, who was in New York to attend the annual Celebrate Israel Parade in Manhattan, said earlier Sunday that protesters had stomped on his wife’s foot, cursed him with death wishes, and screamed in his ear using a megaphone, which he said was a form of assault.

Hannah Rothman told Channel 12 that she had felt “assaulted, under attack, surrounded on all sides by men, which left me feeling extremely uncomfortable and exposed.”

She also noted that the bodyguards lacked the authority to deal with the protesters as they were on foreign soil, when asked how much danger she was truly in.

“This was not a protest, they called Simcha ‘Demon Rothman.’ Yelling, hounding us for 20 minutes, cursing, someone told Simcha ‘I hope your life is short.’ This was really not a protest,” she said.

But Hannah Rothman herself protested when the interviewer pointed out the combative style of her husband, a fast-talking jurist with a penchant for sarcasm.

“What I thought and what was told to me is that I would speak about the experience I went through,” she responded. “I don’t want to respond to these things.”

A moment later she said she was ending the discussion and disconnected from the interview.

Hannah Rothman said she was led to believe the focus of the interview would be how she had experienced the altercation and said she had no desire to debate her husband’s public image, before hanging up.

MK Simcha Rothman is seen at the Celebrate Israel Parade in New York City, June 4, 2023. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

During remarks at a conference by the Besheva group in New York later Sunday, Simcha Rothman said the protest had been “a personal attack on me.”

The judicial overhaul seeks to transfer some of the judiciary’s powers, which the plan’s architects say are excessive, to the executive and legislative branches.

The plan’s critics say it risks making the court subservient to the government and endangers principles of democratic government, including independent courts.

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