ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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Organizer of Tel Aviv public prayer distances event from Ben Gvir response

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

Israel Zeira, head of Rosh Yehudi, an Orthodox group, speaks with police officers during protests after the group set up a gender divider for a Yom Kippur public prayer event at Dizengoff Square, in Tel Aviv, September 24, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/ Flash90)
Israel Zeira, head of Rosh Yehudi, an Orthodox group, speaks with police officers during protests after the group set up a gender divider for a Yom Kippur public prayer event at Dizengoff Square, in Tel Aviv, September 24, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/ Flash90)

The head of the organization that staged a controversial street prayer in Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv distances his group from Public Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s plans to pray there in solidarity with the organization.

“It appears to associate us with Ben Gvir, when this is not true at all,” Israel Zeira, the founder of the Rosh Yehudi group, tells The Times of Israel of the minister’s plans to lead an afternoon prayer on Dizengoff Square on Thursday.

“We don’t hold prayers as a political statement, it’s not our way and we don’t agree with this,” Zeira adds.

The planned prayer announced by Ben Gvir, a far-right politician, 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 Rosh Yehudi 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.

Protesters pulled down the flags and broke up the frame. Police did not intervene in the scuffles, in which secular and observant Jews argued loudly on Judaism’s holiest day.

Rosh Yehudi says the frame did not violate the city’s ban. However, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai says he views the frame as a violation.

“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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