Ultra-Orthodox lawmaker sparks backlash with comment about pop star’s immodest dress

MK Moshe Gafni says he would “donate clothes” to singer Noa Kirel, Israel’s contestant in the Eurovision song contest who won third place.

By World Israel News Staff

A senior ultra-Orthodox lawmaker came under fire Monday after he took aim at a pop star’s wardrobe, hinting that it is immodest, while defending his party’s call for increased spending on yeshiva student stipends and religious schools.

MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), chairman of the Knesset’s powerful Finance Committee and head of the Degel HaTorah faction within the UTJ party, addressed the Knesset plenum Monday morning as the government presented its proposed 2023-2024 budget plan.

During his address, Gafni pushed back on criticism over UTJ’s call for an additional 600 million shekels in funding for yeshiva students and ultra-Orthodox schools – a step ultra-Orthodox lawmakers said was necessary to retroactively apply the new budget’s spending plan for religious schools, bringing them on par with state schools, to the first five months of the year.

Gafni accused critics of the UTJ’s demand of bias against ultra-Orthodox Jews. Hitherto, independent-religious schools have received fifty percent of the funding per pupil as state-secular and state-religious schools.

“I spoke with my daughter recently; she never heard of Noa Kirel. Never heard of her. So what? So because of that she shouldn’t get the same kind of funding? I would donate clothes to [Noa Kirel] so that she would have.”

Read  Ultra-Orthodox minister threatens to topple gov't if draft law not passed

Kirel, 22, is one of Israel’s top-charting pop music singers and came in third place recently in the 2023 Eurovision song competition.

Opposition lawmakers harshly criticized Gafni for his comment, with Yesh Atid MK Meirav Ben-Ari calling it “repulsive.”

“What does he care what Noa wears?” Ben-Ari tweeted. “Noa Kirel built herself up with hard work from a young age. While doing that, she enlisted in the army and did full army service. She was also an outstanding soldier, and in the end, she represented Israel wonderfully and in an inspiring way. All these things, Gafni didn’t do and knows nothing about. Disgusting.”

Former Finance Minister MK Avidgor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) tweeted: “Gafni, just so you know, this is not Iran.”

Hagit Pe’er, head of the women’s organization Na’amat, said Kirel “represents the beautiful face of Israel to the world, Gafni makes sure that he reminds the world of the darkness we won’t allow here. Noa — you are amazing, strong and empowering. You’ll probably get along just fine without Gafni.”

Shortly after Gafni’s comments in the Knesset plenum, UTJ announced that it reached a deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, securing the party’s support for the budget.

Read  Ultra-Orthodox minister threatens to topple gov't if draft law not passed

In exchange, the state will fund a one-time payment to full-time yeshiva students, retroactively increasing their stipends from the beginning of the year. The move will cost 250 million shekels, less than half of the 600 million demanded by UTJ.