Moshe Gafni – How dare you!

It is almost impossible to believe that I am reading these words.  But, here they are:

(Moshe) Gafne (head of the ultra-Orthodox Degel Hatorah party)addressed the bar association’s annual gathering in an Eilat hotel, defending the chareidi tzibur against the recent accusation of gender discrimination and more. Gafne told participants that accusations against the chareidi tzibur were unjustifiable

“For I do not know anyone who spits at 12-year-old girls as was the case in Beit Shemesh. Yair Lapid arranged it, and a week later he announced his entry into politics. Chareidim did not spit on the 12-year-old girl. It was an individual”.

These comments were made on Sunday.  Mr. Gafni – how dare you!

The nerve that this man has.  The people who lived with the Orot girls saga for months have put that story to rest.  But the leader of an ultra-Orthodox party that was silent throughout the entire saga not only brings it up but has the nerve to say that it was made up? 

The guilt that he feels as an ultra-Orthodox leader is quite apparent.  Yes, Mr. Gafni, it was Haredim who carried out these horrible acts.  They are a small minority of extremists and most Haredim would never do these things.  But, yes, you, Mr. Gafni are guilty.  The isolation and fundamentalist lifestyles which you and your party have been advocating for years is what leads to this extremism.
Furthermore, during the four months of the Orot ordeal, not one word of condemnation could be heard from anyone at Degel HaTorah.  Once we made it national news, they said “of course we have been condemning it all along and why is everyone attacking us?”  The silence througout the ordeal implicates them in this and other acts of extremism and hatred and the time has come for them to wake up and join the rest of the Jewish people on all levels.
I must also add that Degel HaTorah’s representative, working under Gafni, is leading the battle to transform Bet Shemesh into an “ultra-Orthodox” city.  This most certainly led to the extremists flexing their muscles and feeling that they could act as they pleased in the city.  The sad thing is they will use any means at their disposal to do so – including lies.  For example, we are currently in the appeals process regarding RBS Gimmel 2.  No decision has been handed down regarding our appeal.  And yet, the Degel HaTorah backed newspaper reported that the appeal was denied immediately because the objectors were “simply anti-Haredi.”  Aside from the fact that the appeal was not based on anything anti-Haredi and based on real problems with the plans for the new neighborhood including transportation, environment, and archeology, the appeal has not been denied.  No decision has been made.

Mr. Gafni – the time has come for all of us to return to core Torah values of honesty, integrity, and unity.  We know you feel guilty regarding recent events and are willing to forgive you.  Just find the inner strength to change course and lead your party to focusing on joining with the rest of the Jewish people and modeling real Torah values for the rest of the nation.  Enough with the falsehoods and accusations.  Enough with the isolation and polarization.  There are so many problems that we can solve if we simply put aside our disagreements and work together.  

May that day come quickly.

About the Author
Dov Lipman was elected to the 19th Knesset in January 2013. He is the author of seven books about Judaism and Israel, and holds rabbinic ordination from Ner Israel Rabbinical College and a masters in education from Johns Hopkins University. He has been at the forefront of combating religious extremism in Israel and is a leader in efforts to create Jewish unity both in Israel and around the world. Former MK Lipman is invited to speak on behalf of the Jewish state both in Israel and around the world and serves as a political commentator for i24 News and ILTV.