Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, has issued a scathing rebuke of right-wing politician Itamar Ben-Gvir over his recent visits to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
Many in Israel view Ben-Gvir’s actions as provocative, and his demeanor certainly is that, though the MK insists he is fighting for Jewish religious rights at the one place in Israel where Jews have none.
Rabbi Yosef played on that theme by blasting Ben-Gvir for “going up to the Temple Mount, stirring up the winds and crossing the line of the great men of Israel. Think about it, fool.”
Ultra-Orthodox Jews refrain from ascending the Temple Mount for fear of inadvertently trampling on the “Holy of Holies,” so Rabbi Yosef was also referring to the prohibition on visiting the site supported by many rabbis.
But Hebrew media outlets suggested the Chief Rabbi’s chastisement was also connected to the possibility of early elections.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s unity government is teetering, and early elections are a very real possibility. Polls and reports suggest that if it comes to that, many young religious voters will abandon the ultra-Orthodox parties and vote for religious Zionist parties like the one led by Ben-Gvir (Otzma Yehudit).
“Stay away from him,” Rabbi Yosef said of Ben-Gvir in what many saw as a veiled pre-election admonishment.
Rabbi Yosef is the son of the late Ovadia Yosef, himself the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel from 1973-1983, before becoming spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox political party Shas.