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Radio host suspended for saying he hopes Haredi MKs hang themselves with tefillin

Radio103 FM takes Natan Zahavi off air until further notice over rant against ultra-Orthodox politicians: ‘Get the hell out of here with the modesty, challahs, candle-lighting’

Natan Zahavi arrives at a court in Tel Aviv, July 9, 2018. (Miriam Alster/ Flash90/ File)
Natan Zahavi arrives at a court in Tel Aviv, July 9, 2018. (Miriam Alster/ Flash90/ File)

An Israeli radio station suspended a prominent host until further notice, after he said during an on-air rant Sunday that he hoped some ultra-Orthodox Jews would use ritual phylacteries to hang themselves, implying he was referring to Haredi lawmakers.

Natan Zahavi, known for his blunt style and frequent rants on various issues, made the remarks on Radio 103FM, while railing at Haredi political leadership.

“All these dreckes (lowlifes) quote to me passages from the Hebrew Bible,” he said during the broadcast, using a Yiddish word.

“‘You must pray, put on tefillin, light Shabbat candles, take challah, dress modestly,'” he said. “Get the hell out of here with the modesty, challahs, candle-lighting and tefillin.”

“I’d be happy if a few of them would tie the tefillin around their necks and hang themselves, since they’re public representatives that do nothing,” he cried.

He then ended the tirade, saying he would stop “before I get in trouble with the radio manager.”

Radio 103FM later put out a statement strongly denouncing Zahavi’s comments, announcing his suspension and suggesting further punishment may be in the offing.

“Free speech has red lines too. The CEO of the station decided to suspend the host immediately and keep him away from the microphone until a clarification conversation is held, after which decisions will be made regarding the future,” the statement said.

The move came after Zahavi’s comments were strongly denounced on social media and by primarily ultra-Orthodox politicians, with calls for him to be fired.

“The disgusting words from Natan Zahavi are incitement to murder against Jews who observe the Torah and commandments,” said Yitzhak Goldknopf, head of United Torah Judaism.

Goldknopf said he expected the radio station to renounce the comments and fire Zahavi, who is also a newspaper columnist.

Shas MK Uriel Buso also called for the radio host to be kicked out, writing in a letter to the station that Jewish religious customs “are not an object of ridicule and contempt.”

Zahavi was also suspended in June by Radio 103FM for saying he wished the studio of right-wing Channel 14 would “burn with all those sitting inside.”

He later apologized for those remarks, for which the state body that regulates commercial television and radio outlets fined Radio 103FM the amount of NIS 5,000 ($1,475).

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