The ultra-Orthodox chairman of the Knesset’s Finance Committee, Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) on Thursday sharply criticized Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home), calling him “a real damage” for having visited Temple Mount this week.
Speaking at a session of the committee held in Kfar Hamakabiyah, in central Israel, Gafni said “I protest his going up to the Temple Mount. He should start tending to the issues of his ministry instead of going to the Temple Mount.”
“With such an agriculture minister I feel I’m in the Diaspora. [He’s] totally redundant. A real damage,” Gafni said.
Gafni said he did “not see the diplomatic logic of him going up to the Temple Mount and I don’t see him actually working as agriculture minister. He should take care of the Land of Israel as minister of agriculture and not by going to visit the Temple Mount,” Gafni said.
According to ultra-Orthodox news website Kikar Hashabat, Jewish Home officials said in response that Gafni “should do what he does best, that is being a schnorrer.” The term, which means scrounger, was an apparent reference to the assertion that many in the ultra-Orthodox community do not do national service and are heavily supported by state benefits.
Gafni said that Ariel, an Orthodox-nationalist lawmaker, “is causing damage to the ultra-Orthodox community that even [secular Yesh Atid leader] Yair Lapid didn’t do.”
Officials in the Agriculture Ministry told Kikar Hashabat that the comment did not merit a response.
Ariel went to visit the Temple Mount on Sunday, leading a group of right wing activists. Jewish prayer is not allowed at the site. According to Channel 10, Ariel visits the Temple Mount every year ahead of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
The contested holy site has been the scene of several clashes this week, and Israeli police security operations there — intended to thwart Palestinian rioting and attacks — have attracted heavy criticism from the Arab world.
Traditional Orthodox rulings are that Jews should not ascend the mount, site of the Biblical temples, for fear of unwittingly bringing impurity to the site of the temples’ sacred Holy of Holies. But a movement of Orthodox Jews believes it is religiously acceptable to visit the mount.