An ultra-Orthodox lawmaker launched a tirade against Reform Jews at a Knesset discussion Tuesday, calling them “clowns” and telling them to “go hold bar mitzvahs for dogs.”
Speaking at a Knesset discussion about alleged lack of transparency on the part of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which manages the holy site, Menachem Eliezer Moses (United Torah Judaism) told representatives of liberal streams of Judaism that the demand for more accountability from Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch was no more than “an excuse,” when the real aim was to harm the orthodox traditions of the place and to undermine Jewish religious law and gender separation.
Moses referred to the Women of the Wall, who gather at the holy site once a month to pray dressed in prayer shawls and holding Torah scrolls, as “those clowns who come every new moon.”
Before leaving the meeting in anger, he charged, “Look at how they look there, destroying everything that’s good.”
Turning to representatives of the Reform community, he roared at them. “Shame on you! What have you got to do with the Wall?” He then suggested that they might next want to hold “bar mitzvahs for dogs” at the site.
Mozes’s rant came against the backdrop of a long-running feud which has pitted the government and ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders against the Women of the Wall feminist prayer group and liberal streams of Judaism over the creation of a mixed-gender, pluralistic prayer pavilion at the site. Other issues that divide the camps include the lack of civil marriage and civil burial in Israel.
Last week, workers began erecting scaffolding in the Robinson’s Arch area as they began construction of a long-delayed permanent pluralistic prayer pavilion.
But the government’s freeze of a more far-reaching 2016 deal for mixed-gender prayer is still in force.
The Knesset debate took place before a committee on government transparency. It came in the wake of allegations that the state had abandoned the revered site to a body that is unaccountable and managed by one rabbi according to his whim and the pressures put upon him by some of the most extreme sectors of ultra-Orthodox society.
Rabbi Rabinovitch himself chose not to take part in the discussions, but rather to send the Western Wall Heritage Foundation’s director general, Solly Eliav.
Eliav reportedly came under a torrent of criticism from those present, many of them secular women, including the committee’s chairperson, Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union).
Lawmakers asked why the Foundation gave the green light to Ferrari car company executives to park ten sports models in front of the Wall in November while it refused to allow female journalists to cover the recent visit of US Vice President Mike Pence to the site along with their male colleagues, fencing them off in an area which had restricted visibility instead.
They also demanded to know why the fence dividing the women’s and men’s prayer sections at the Wall had been replaced by a divider that hermetically seals the view from the former to the latter.
Criticizing Rabbi Rabinovitch’s failure to attend the discussion and calling for a public council to be formed to administer the site, MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), one of the initiators of the debate, said, “The Western Wall is the prayer house and foundation stone of the entire Jewish people. It’s a great shame that the Rabbi of the Wall doesn’t honor the Knesset with his presence.”
MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu) said “The Western Wall Rabbi continues to do whatever he wants at the Western Wall plaza. It’s time to bring the Wall back to being a place that unites the people of Israel and not one that is a bone of contention.”