A prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbi speaking at the launch of the United Torah Judaism election campaign on Sunday compared Israel unfavorably to Nazi Germany over the Jewish state’s failure to recognize the importance of separating men and women in public.
Speaking at the event in the well-known Lederman Synagogue in Bnei Brak, Rabbi Aviezer Filtz, a prominent figure in UTJ and head of the religious seminary Yeshivat Toshia in the southern village of Tifrah, delivered a fiery speech on the importance of separate-gender seating on public buses.
“Start to organize, to ride separately,” he urged his listeners, then explained that the principle was so fundamental that even the Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust obeyed this policy.
“Even the Nazis, may their names be erased, understood that there has to be separate housing for women and men, but here [in Israel] it’s forbidden!”
Forcing men and women to sit separately on Israeli public buses is illegal, but ultra-Orthodox towns maintain private bus routes within and between major Haredi communities in which men sit at the front and women in the back.
Filtz went on to praise activists in the ultra-Orthodox world working to ensure that separate-seating bus lines are available, but warned darkly that the Israeli “regime” was plotting to shut them down.
“Thank goodness there are those who stand in the breach, who stand against it! But the regime plots,” he said.
A video of Filtz’s statement was recorded by Israel Cohen, a journalist with the ultra-Orthodox radio station Kol Barama. It was carried by the Maariv news site on Sunday, credited to Cohen.
UTJ leader MK Moshe Gafni also spoke at the event, telling activists, “We have two critical weeks [before the April 9 election] to protect everything. Those who want to hurt everything we believe in could come to power,” he warned, likely in reference to Blue and White party no. 2 Yair Lapid, founder of the secularist Yesh Atid party.
“If we don’t want to weep after the fact, we have two weeks to act, and to vote only for United Torah Judaism.”