A top UK Jewish body said on Wednesday that far-right Religious Zionism MK Bezalel Smotrich is not welcome in the country, as he tours Britain.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews, UK Jewry’s mainstream umbrella organization, tweeted in Hebrew that they “reject the abominable views and the hate-provoking ideology of Bezalel Smotrich.”
“We call on all members of the British Jewish community to show him the door. Get back on the plane, Bezalel, and be remembered as a disgrace forever.”
Smotrich is currently on a tour of Jewish communities in the UK and France to rally opposition to the government’s plan for major reforms of state-controlled Jewish religious services.
He met earlier Wednesday in London with a Bnei Akiva group.
אנו דוחים את דעותיו המתועבות ואת האידיאולוגיה אשר מעוררת שנאה של בצלאל סמוטריץ' וקוראים לכל חברי הקהילה היהודית הבריטית להראות לו את הדלת. תחזור למטוס בצלאל, ותהיה לדיראון עולם. אתה לא רצוי כאן.
— Board of Deputies of British Jews (@BoardofDeputies) February 9, 2022
Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana has proposed plans that include easing the process of conversion to Judaism and broadening the range of organizations qualified to give kosher certification, thereby weakening the ultra-Orthodox hegemony, including the Chief Rabbinate’s control over Jewish religious life cycle events in Israel.
His plans, in particular the changes to the conversion services, have drawn sharp criticism from ultra-Orthodox figures, including Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau.
Last Sunday, Lau was joined by his counterpart, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, in leading the “Yeshiva March” protest by students against the proposed reforms. The march was timed to coincide with the weekly cabinet meeting held at the Prime Minister’s Office.
Addressing the crowd, Lau, who has been speaking out openly against Kahana’s plan, said that “our country is a Jewish country, with the Chief Rabbinate, with Torah — that is our essence.”
“A Jewish state is one that has a Chief Rabbinate; a Jewish state is one in which the Chief Rabbinate makes the decisions, writes [the rules] and leads,” Lau said.
Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yosef called on Kahana to “wake up and think carefully about what he is doing.”
He said Kahana has in his employ “all kinds of small rabbis who are confusing him” and urged him instead to listen to the chief rabbis and other leading rabbinic figures in the Orthodox community.
“I call on him to retract all of his plans and step into line with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and strengthen its position,” Yosef said.
He warned that “today there are all sorts of people who call themselves rabbis and ‘discover’” new aspects to the Torah that “are not based on Jewish law.”
“They are distorting the Torah,” Yosef charged. “They come and make all kinds of changes, in kashrut, in conversion, at the southern Western Wall plaza,” he said, referring to a contentious plan to establish an egalitarian prayer site adjacent to the iconic Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.