Coalition partners slam Ben Gvir for further incitement over Tel Aviv public prayer

Secular and Orthodox Israelis at a contested public prayer service in Dizengoff Square, Tel Aviv, on Yom Kippur, September 24, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Secular and Orthodox Israelis at a contested public prayer service in Dizengoff Square, Tel Aviv, on Yom Kippur, September 24, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Members of the coalition slammed far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir for his plans to hold a public prayer service in Tel Aviv on Thursday at the site of the controversial street prayer in Dizengoff Square on Yom Kippur.

Among those criticizing Ben Gvir were National Religious party MK Simcha Rothman, Shas leader Aryeh Deri and Likud MK Yuli Edelstein. Media reports say fellow far-right minister Bezalel Smotrich was also angry at the move.

“Itamar, your intentions are good, but your actions are not,” says Rothman, one of the main architects of the government’s judicial overhaul.

“The answer to the provocations of an extreme progressive and noisy minority that does not want a Jewish and democratic state here is not a counter-provocation that will lead to the expansion of the burning and hatred that will unite a wide public around those extremists,” he says.

“On one side Ben Gvir, on the other [former prime minister Ehud] Barak. In between an entire nation that is sick of provocations,” Edelstein wrote.

The planned prayer announced by Ben Gvir is a response to scuffles that occurred Monday night in the square over the segregation of men and women during an annual street prayer service that the Rosh Yehudi organization has been holding there on Yom Kippur since 2020.

Despite a city order barring gender segregation in a public place, which was upheld by the Supreme Court, the organizers put up a bamboo frame with Israeli flags hanging down.

“I say to those anarchists that tried to eject worshipers on Yom Kippur — I and my friends from Otzma Yehudit are coming on Thursday to the same spot, let’s see you try and eject us,” Ben Gvir says in a video posted Tuesday on X.

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