Anger at Netanyahu for ‘Embracing’ Reform Judaism

December 17, 2013  

Unnamed hareidi leaders expressed their anger Tuesday at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for what they said was his public recognition of the Reform Judaism Movement.

Netanyahu addressed the Reform movement’s US conference through a live video link, and said that “Israel needs to be the home of all the Jews, including Reform ones, and I will do all I can so that everyone feels we accept them.”

The hareidi leaders, who are quoted in hareidi newspaper Hamevaser, claim that previous prime ministers have always resisted Reform leaders’ “heavy pressure” to address the biennial conference. “It is too bad that Netanyahu is adding fuel to the raging fire and pushing the cart further into the abyss,” they said.

“This is even more serious because these are very sensitive days, in which hareidi Jewry is fighting for its life because of the decree for forcibly enlisting yeshiva students. On days in which the tension needs to be lessened, the prime minister elects to deepen the damage to the hareidi public, and strengthen the Reform movement that has led to grave assimilation in the Jewish people.”

“By so doing, Netanyahu proves that the struggle is not for ‘equality in bearing the civil burden’ or other cliches. This is a clear plot to destroy religion, Torah and the mitzvot [commandments]. That is the true aim and there is no other.”

Reform leaders expressed great satisfaction with Netanyahu’s speech, calling it “a historic shift in the relationship between Israeli prime ministers and the Reform movement.” They added that the change does not satisfy them and that they demand equality in status with the Orthodox Rabbinate.

Unlike most previous coalitions headed by Likud, the present Coalition does not include hareidi parties. It does include the religious Zionist Bayit Yehudi, headed by Economics Minister Naftali Bennett, who forged a surprising alliance with secularist Yesh Atid’s leader, Yair Lapid. Bennett initiated the construction of an extension of the Western Wall (Kotel) Plaza, especially for use by Conservative, Reform and other non-Orthodox streams, called Ezrat Yisrael. The move was a compromise deal to diffuse tension at the Kotel amid agitation by the Women of the Wall organization for non-Orthodox prayer arrangements.

Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi are attempting to reach agreement on a bill for increasing the enlistment of young hareidi men into the military or alternative national service. While hareidi politicians have decried these measures as draconian and vowed to fight them, Bayit Yehudi Faction Whip, MK Ayelet Shaked, has claimed that the measures do not herald a drastic change in the number of hareidim who enlist.

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