Haredim in Knesset gallery irk MK
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Haredim in Knesset gallery irk MK

Ruth Calderon of Yesh Atid lambastes yeshiva students who come to watch parliment sessions rather than study Torah

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Ruth Calderon speaks to the Knesset (photo credit: screen capture Knesset Channel)
Ruth Calderon speaks to the Knesset (photo credit: screen capture Knesset Channel)

Ultra-Orthodox citizens who sit and watch the Knesset sessions while dressed in yeshiva students’ cloths are a disgrace to Jewish values, as they are not engaged in Torah study, Yesh Atid party MK Ruth Calderon said in a somewhat bewildering speech Monday.

During the closing comments of her speech at the Knesset podium, Calderon seemed distressed as she demanded that the yeshiva students leave the parliament building at once.

“The last thing I want to talk about is the daily blasphemy by the people dressed as scholars, sitting here in the plenum, idle, without a book, hour after hour,” Calderon said.

“It’s driving me crazy,” she replied to a baffled MK Tamar Rozin (Meretz), who voiced her disdain over Calderon’s unusual comments.

“It insults the attire of a scholar, it is a disgrace to the value of Torah study, and I’m asking you to either bring books or to go study and learn,” the Yesh Atid MK stated, raising her eyes at the ultra-Orthodox spectators.

In their seats above the Knesset plenum, the ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students were visibly amused while Meretz and Labor MKs vocally defended ultra-Orthodox community members’ right to attend Knesset discussions.

“Why does it interest you?” MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) asked Calderon.

Calderon did not back down, as she was being urged back to her seat by fellow party members, and once again lashed out at the yeshiva student audience.

“It’s a disgrace,” she said, shaking her hand at the Haredi viewers. “I’m not cursing. Shame for the Torah! Take off those clothes!”

Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas), the acting speaker for the session, criticized Calderon, but called on the Knesset members to let the incident pass.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen, there is no doubt that what MK Ruth Calderon said was out of order, no doubt,” he said. “Sitting here and watching are so many citizens, and this is their legitimate right.”

Calderon, an educator and scholar who established a mixed, secular yeshiva in Tel Aviv, was lauded by many Israelis for a moving inaugural address which included a call for the widespread study of Jewish and Hebrew texts as the basis for a new Hebrew culture, but has since attracted media attention mostly for her Facebook gaffes, not unlike several other figures in her party.

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