‘Anxious about bloodshed’ – Leading rabbis call on protest leaders to calm tensions

Prominent Religious Zionist rabbis express concern over “talk of civil strife and bloodshed” from anti-judicial reform protesters, call for unity and dialogue.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Several prominent leaders in the Religious Zionism movement wrote an open letter to the leaders of the anti-government protests, calling for unity in the face of rising political tensions.

Tzfat (Safed) Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Rabbi Hananel Etrog, Rabbi Tamir Garnot, and Rabbi David Turjeman were among the other rabbis who signed the letter.

“We turn to the leaders of the protest as dear and beloved brothers. We came from the four corners of exile and created a glorious society, despite all of our differences. Together we built a wonderful country, despite enormous difficulties. We fought together shoulder-to-shoulder against enemies from the outside,” reads the letter, which was published on Wednesday.

“We are anxious about the talk of civil strife and bloodshed. This rhetoric …does not allow for substantive conversation and listening,” the letter continued, referencing numerous statements from left-wing leaders to “take up arms” and assassinate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in order to stop reforms to the judicial system.

“We have no doubt that the majority of the public who opposes the reform does not agree with this divisive style either.”

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In the letter, the rabbis stressed their support for the reforms to the judicial system, calling them “essential for democracy.” But they acknowledged that they “hear pain and concern” on the side of those who are against the changes and asked to speak “heart to heart” with them.

“Dialogue is necessary for the unity of the people,” the rabbis wrote. “We will listen and try to understand your position… We will work to improve the reforms and do everything in our power to mobilize the members of the Knesset, the ministers and the entire public that listens to us.”

On Tuesday, 75 Israeli religious leaders, many of them from the more liberal end of the Religious Zionism movement, sent a letter to Knesset members asking for them to seriously consider President Isaac Herzog’s compromise regarding the reforms.

“Changes without as much broad agreement as possible are likely to fray the thread connecting different parts of the nation, causing a rift and a breakdown,” they wrote.

Rabbi Shai Piron, who once served as education minister, Tzohar head Rabbi David Stav and Rabbi Moshe Lichtenstein, head of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shvut, were among those who signed the letter calling for compromise.