Ultra-orthodox leaders call Bennett ‘evil’, new gov’t will ‘destroy Israel’s Jewish identity’

Ultra-Orthodox party heads denounce Naftali Bennett, warn that coalition agreements will “destroy the Jewish identity and character” of Israel.

By World Israel News staff

Leaders of the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties lashed out at Yemina party head Naftali Bennett and the Change Bloc’s political agenda, calling it “evil” and arguing it would eradicate the character of Israel as a Jewish state.

The coalition agreements signed by the parties call for reform in various facets of Israel’s status-quo between religion and state.

Contentious issues in the new government’s program include civil marriage, exemptions for yeshiva students from military service, egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall, commerce and public transportation on Shabbat, standardizing core curriculum subjects in haredi schools, kashrut supervision, conversions to Judaism and the appointment of chief rabbis.

At a joint meeting of the factions in the Knesset Tuesday, Shas party leader Rabbi Aryeh Deri said, “The new government is going to destroy the Jewish identity and character of the state, which allows us to live together.”

Deri added, “It now turns out that due to personal lust and ambition, the government led by Bennett will throw away all the values which were sacred to the people of Israel for thousands of years.”

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Referring to Bennett, United Torah Judaism leader Moshe Gafni said, “The name of the evil shall rot,” and insisted haredim would oppose changes.

“We won’t allow in any way Judaism or those things connected to the religious and ultra-Orthodox community for the continuation of religious life to be harmed,” Gafni said.

Bennett brushed off the criticism. In response to Gafni’s comments, the prime minister-designate said, the haredim “have nothing worry about,” while also insisting on a state enquiry into the Meron disaster.

Forty five people were killed during a stampede at the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a holy site that attracts thousands of people on the holiday of Lag B’Omer. The ultra-Orthodox parties are at odds with the Change bloc over the makeup and scope of an inquiry.

The haredi MKs “will not teach us what Judaism is, and certainly not what Zionism is. As prime minister, I will take care of ultra-Orthodox society and the world of Torah,” Bennett declared.