July 3, 2022
WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST
Having traveled and worked in the Middle East since l968, Robert L. Wise has journeyed through the region, giving him insights from behind the scenes. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon. Each week he attempts to present an objective view of current events.
TRANSITION AND CHAOS IN ISRAEL
As indicated in the last blog, Israel has suddenly developed a new government. The transition was complete this week. Yair Lapid officially became Prime Minister at the stroke of midnight between Thursday and Friday, taking office as the 14th premier in Israel’s history.
Lapid’s term leading the country could be a fairly short one, as he takes over a caretaker government ahead of national elections on November 1. But the new Prime Minister appeared determined to make the most of the potentially brief tenure, and bolster his prospects of winning a full term in four months’ time.
“We’ll do the best we can for a Jewish, democratic state, good and strong and thriving, because that is the job, and it’s bigger than all of us,” Lapid said at a handover ceremony with outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday afternoon.
On his first day in office Friday, Lapid’s first agenda item was a meeting with Ronen Bar, the head of the Shin Bet security agency, at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv. A statement from Lapid’s office said the meeting included a “broad defense and intelligence briefing on what is happening on the different fronts.”
Shortly afterward, the new prime minister held a meeting to discuss “the captives and MIAs” — a reference to the two Israeli men and the remains of two IDF soldiers being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
So much for a smooth transition. Here’s the chaos.
Dozens of ultra-Orthodox extremists disrupted three bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies at the egalitarian plaza of the Western Wall on Thursday morning, shouting over the services, calling the worshipers “Nazis,” “Christians” and “animals,” blowing whistles and ripping up prayer books, according to eyewitnesses.
“It was all really, really ugly,” said Laura Ben-David, who was hired by one of the families to photograph the bar mitzvah.
In one case, a young ultra-Orthodox man was filmed ripping a page out of a prayer book, or Siddur, and then wiping his nose with it while smirking. This was a particularly disrespectful act as books with God’s name in them, like the Siddur, are meant to be treated with the utmost respect in the Jewish tradition, which even requires that they be buried when no longer in use instead of being thrown out or recycled.
“How can a nation of Jews allow a reality in which people fear for their security when they are just trying to pray in their own way in a plaza that was specifically designated for this type of prayer?” wrote the Masorti Movement, Israel’s equivalent to the American Conservative movement, in a tweet.
Rabbi Arie Hasit, who officiated one of the ceremonies, said he was “broken” by the ordeal after the protesters called the bar mitzvah boy “a Christian… a Nazi and more.”
“This was an American boy who wanted to celebrate reaching the age of mitzvot, a boy who could have forgotten any connection with the Jewish people and the land of Israel but chose to go up to the Torah in Israel, in front of his parents, his grandfather and grandmother, and some family,” Hasit wrote in a public Facebook post.
There you have it! Just another typical day in Israel.
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