The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is outraged at derogatory comments about Reform Jews made by Israel’s Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay, who is from the Sephardic Haredi Shas Party. It called on the Minister to “swiftly and unequivocally” apologize for his “deeply hurtful, spurious assault” on the Reform movement.
In addition, the ADL pointed to the “outrageous” comments by Knesset Member Yisrael Eichler — from the Ashkenazic Haredi United Tora Judaism Party — who compared the Women of the Wall movement to the perpetrators of today’s hate crime arson attack on the Church of the Multiplication in northern Israel, as compounding the damage done by Minister Azoulay’s statements.
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With all the hate directed against Jews around the world these days, especially in Europe, it is less than helpful, to say the least, to see a Jewish Israeli politician make such negative comments about his fellow Jews. While it is certainly not surprising that the ultra-orthodox feel this way about the liberal Jewish streams, it is still shocking to hear one of that community’s political leaders make such heinous statements.
According to reports, during a meeting on the subject of the Women of the Wall, Minister Azoulay characterized Reform Jews as “a disaster for the people of Israel, ” and also referred to the prayer activities of the Women of the Wall as a “provocation.” In a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, MK Eichler wrote that the Women of the Wall who engage in Torah reading at the Western Wall are “not any less dangerous than vandals who attacked the Christian site on the Sea of Galilee.
These statements clearly crossed a very well defined line between being critical of what the other groups do and out right hate speech and the ADl took notice.
“The denigration of Jewish religious observance and practice by any Israeli government representative is inappropriate, ” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “Coming from the Minister for Religious Affairs, such offensive comments only serve to widen and deepen divisions among Jews and set back efforts to promote Jewish religious inclusiveness, and MK Eichler’s outrageous and highly offensive comparison of the Women of the Wall to individuals responsible for a hate crime – coming on the heels of Minister Azoulay’s statement – only fuels that growing divide.”
Mr. Foxman added, “Minister Azoulay and MK Eichler must swiftly and unequivocally apologize for their deeply hurtful spurious assaults on Reform Jews and the Women of the Wall. Their comments are an affront to millions of Jews in Israel and around the world. It is imperative that the government of Israel engage in sustained and intensified efforts to ensure that all Jews can feel at home and comfortable in Israel, regardless of belief or denominational affiliation. Israel and the Jewish people will be better off once all Jews and their sense of Judaism are equally respected and tolerated.”