‘No Boundaries’: PM takes aim at protestors who broke up Tel Aviv Yom Kippur service

Non-religious ministers and citizens also decried the disruption of prayers on Judaism’s holiest day.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the most prominent but hardly the only outwardly non-religious figure who slammed left-wing activists who broke up a public Yom Kippur prayer service in Tel Aviv Sunday night.

“The people of Israel sought to unite on Yom Kippur in asking for forgiveness, repentance, and unity among us,” Netanyahu posted on X after the holiday was over Monday night.

“To our astonishment, specifically in the Jewish state, on the holiest day for the Jewish people, left-wing demonstrators rioted against Jews during their prayer.”

“It seems that there are no boundaries, no norms and no restrictions on hatred on the part of the extremists on the left,” he continued. “I, like the majority of Israeli citizens, reject this. Such violent behavior has no place among us.”

A group of anti-religious protestors from the anti-reform group dubbed the “Kaplan Force,” had forcefully disrupted an open service in Dizengoff Square, where men and women of all stripes had gathered to pray. The courts had upheld a municipality ban last week on partitions to separate the sexes as Orthodox custom demands, and the organizers had simply put up a rod of hanging Israeli flags, which the police acknowledged was within their rights.

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Videos uploaded to social media showed men and women shouting at the impromptu congregants, saying that they should “follow the law,” as well as referring to their anger over the government’s push for judicial reform.

Religious men wrapped in prayer shawls could be seen leaving quietly rather than resist, while one woman can be heard protesting, “I’m secular! I’m secular but I want tradition on Yom Kippur!”

Minister of Culture and Sports Miki Zohar, who does not regularly wear a skullcap, called the demonstrators’ behavior “disgraceful”, adding, “The time has come to stop this burning hatred against any Jewish symbol. This is crossing an intolerable line.”

Tel Avivian TV host Erez Tal took to Facebook to criticize the hypocrisy shown by the interlopers.

“You cannot proclaim that Tel Aviv is a free city and in the same breath prevent those who want to pray separately in the square from doing so,” he wrote. “No one is forcing you to join. Is it bothering you? Open a competing prayer service without gender separation. It’s that simple. What’s the fear? Are the cunning messianics trying to bewitch us?”

Likud MK Eli Dellal, who said he was born in raised in Tel Aviv, known as the secular bastion of the state, said, “The pictures from yesterday are heartbreaking and these events remind us of difficult days in Jewish history,” he said. “The leaders of the opposition must show leadership and not be afraid of the bullies and condemn it and work for the freedom of prayer properly for those who request it.”

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Opposition leaders Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Benny Gantz (National Unity) instead bashed the prime minister for his words.

“Mr. Netanyahu, as Yom Kippur ends, a prime minster shouldn’t add incitement and strife, but try to calm things down. For your information, most of the people who came to protest against the coercion of the messianics fasted and prayed on this Yom Kippur. They are not against Judaism, they are trying to save Judaism from the racist and extremist group that you gave the government to as a gift.”

Saying the municipality had been correct to ban partitions, which had never been done before in the Jewish state, Gantz blamed Netanyahu for “stoking hatred,” rather criticize the animosity of the protestors.

“Now, those who decided to separate us managed to desecrate this holy day too with compulsion and hatred,” he said. “And none other than the prime minister, the biggest generator of hate, is the one who is now stoking the flames together with politicians who decided to turn our public spaces into a disaster area.”