“Prayers are not a provocation,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday, referring to his National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s intention to hold a public prayer service in Tel Aviv tomorrow evening. He tried to politely dissuade Ben-Gvir from his plan. “Now, after the difficult incident in Tel Aviv, the most important thing is to reassure all sides. Therefore, all leaders are expected to act responsibly and not do anything that will make the situation worse.”
Ben-Gvir’s announcement was met with little support from most of his coalition colleagues. The minister announced that he would hold an evening service tomorrow with his friends and colleagues, to which he invited everyone, after riots broke out in Tel Aviv on Yom Kippur.
“I want to see who stops me in Tel Aviv,” Ben-Gvir tweeted in his threat to the left-wing radicals in the city.
אני אומר לאותם אנרכיסטים שניסו לסלק את המתפללים ביום כיפור – אני וחברי עוצמה יהודית, מגיעים ביום חמישי הקרוב לאותו מקום, כדי להתפלל תפילת ערבית, נראה אתכם מנסים לסלק אותנו. אני קורא לכולם, חילונים ודתיים, מסורתיים, אשכנזים וספרדים, תבואו, התפילה היא של כולם, זאת מדינת היהודים! pic.twitter.com/8eVqMN1dbO
— איתמר בן גביר (@itamarbengvir) September 26, 2023
“On one side there is Ben-Gvir, on the other there is former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and his accomplices. In the middle is an entire people who are tired of extremism,” said Likud lawmaker and former Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein. These people are playing into the hands of savages on both sides, and this has recently become more and more acute. “The Jews know how to hate, especially themselves and their neighbors,” the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon once said. His son Gilad recently wrote in a column in which he noted that there are enough fools on both sides of the aisle. “On the left there are calls for revolution, and on the right ministers call to arrest opposition leaders. It’s a Jewish autoimmune disease,” wrote Gilad Sharon.
The people are aware of this danger and so they try to dissuade Itamar from his plan. “Itamar should be responsible and cancel Thursday’s event,” suggested Ohad Tal, a fellow member of the Religious Zionist Party. “Prayer must not become a battlefield. Period. Judaism cannot be built on this provocation.” Even Simcha Rothman, also a colleague in Ben-Gvir’s party, expressed similar sentiments in a tweet:
“Itamar, your ideas are good, but not your intentions and actions. There is no doubt that the actions of a small and violent minority that attacked Yom Kippur worshipers breaks all of our hearts, but the response to the provocation of the extreme progressive minority and troublemakers must not be a counter-provocation that would lead to an expansion of hatred. Darkness is not defeated with sticks, but by adding light.”
But the problem with Itamar is that he acts like a child. And that is dangerous. That is why the entire security apparatus sees Itamar not just as a headache, but as a real threat to Israel, and primarily to the right-wing nationalist coalition. How often has Ben-Gvir announced a security operation in the Gaza Strip without consulting the security chiefs following a bloody terrorist attack, thereby driving the security cabinet crazy.
Some of his ideas are good, but he doesn’t understand that he is already 47-years-old and the Minister of National Security. He is no longer the young activist who glorified the Orthodox Rabbi Meir Kahana and was a member of the far-right Jewish Kach movement. Itamar loves the spotlight and is a brilliant politician who knows how to use the media for his political goals like no other. He knows how to annoy his neighbors and often has very good arguments for it. He gets to the point and is often correct in his views. And that drives many people crazy, as it does now in his coalition. He now wants to see who will stand up to him on the pitch in Tel Aviv tomorrow.
See also: Who is afraid of Itamar Ben-Gvir?
To do this, he is ready to turn evening prayers into a battlefield with his opponents. Those who have to ensure peace and order are of course the police and the municipal law enforcement officers. Public prayers are permitted in Tel Aviv as long as they are not segregated between men and women, as is the case in synagogues. So Itamar announces: “Okay, we won’t pray the evening prayer separately, but together – and I want to see who will stop us.” And he always knows how to say this to the camera with a typical intonation, which gives the impression of “war.”
On the other hand, left-wing protest organizations announced last night that they would also hold a prayer, a “prayer for democracy in Israel.” It is an initiative of various movements, including the LGBT community, which received permission from the Municipality to hold the prayer in Dizengoff Square in coordination with the police. “In these days when the Prime Minister and his ministers seek to flood the public with vitriol and hate, we choose to unite under the values of equality and freedom that bind us all.” Well, those are nice words, but when things get heated on the ground, even those fine protesters who pray for something different get angry. Itamar’s friends in the coalition have warned that the prayers could turn into a fistfight. They’re doing everything they can to prevent this. Itamar alone cannot do it.
How do the prayers in Tel Aviv benefit God and His purposes if they are said out of hatred for one’s neighbor? Prayers are something intimate between God and man and must not be misused as a provocation against others. This applies to both sides, to the religious Jews, but also to the left-wing and secular Jews. Frankly, it would be better to cancel all public prayers scheduled for tomorrow in Tel Aviv, because all it takes is one person freaking out and sparking violence among brothers and sisters on the eve of the biblical Feast of Tabernacles, Sukkot.
Israel Today Membership
Save 18% Per Month.
Six Months Membership
Save 9% Per Month.