Leading ultra-Orthodox rabbi Ben Zion Mutzafi kicked out a man attending his lecture on Sunday evening due to the man’s opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine.
In video footage of the incident published Tuesday by Haredi news site Kikar HaShabbat, the rabbi can be seen repeatedly calling the man “crazy” and “evil.” He later said he stood behind those descriptions.
After the anti-vaxxer started loudly voicing his opinions against the vaccine, Mutzafi, who ordered all his followers to get the vaccine earlier this year, was seen shouting: “More than 6,500 people died, stop making things up. Go, get out of here, you’re crazy.”
The man ket protesting, and the rabbi kept responding. “You’re crazy, I am declaring you crazy — get out of here,” he said. “I will not allow you to speak, you are a heretic, you are evil.”
The incident occurred in a synagogue in Jerusalem.
On Tuesday, Mutzafi told Channel 12 news how the incident began: “He suddenly interrupted me and started going wild, screaming and shouting at me. I know that there is no point in speaking to such people, so I asked him to shut up. He didn’t shut up and continued yelling. I told him he doesn’t have the right to speak because that wasn’t the topic of the discussion.
“I called him a few names that he deserves.”
Mutzafi said he has encountered anti-vaccination sentiment outside his classes, saying that was because he actively speaks in favor of the vaccine.
“I pity those who cause this conflagration,” he added. “We need to embrace them and bring them closer, but they are spreading rumors… Science fiction today is right here, in this community.”
According to the ultra-Orthodox news site Kikar HaShabba, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with Mutzafi on Wednesday and praised him for denouncing vaccine opponents. He also reportedly stressed the importance of rabbis calling for the public to get vaccinated against COVID.
Mutzafi, 75, is one of the top Sephardic Haredi spiritual leaders. Throughout the pandemic, as some in the ultra-Orthodox community repeatedly defied health regulations, he has been one of the most prominent voices urging strict adherence to the rules.
A year ago, he criticized those who didn’t wear face masks, claiming they violated the biblical commandment against committing murder. He has also defended strict restrictions imposed on Jewish festivals amid accusations they are directed against the ultra-Orthodox, saying they were designed to save lives.
Ahead of the upcoming High Holiday period, Mutzafi said Tuesday that he will again adhere to any rules imposed.