What’s with Bibi’s Attire?

I have been quite puzzled the last few days as I have watched our Prime Minister meet world leaders who have come to Israel to give us material and emotional support. I am not quite sure who is his fashion consultant and what he is attempting to portray.

I realize that clothes do not make the man. However, they do show a reflection of him and in the case of a Prime Minister and leader of a country reflect upon the entire citizenry of that country. I was used to seeing my current Prime Minister dressed in a suit and tie as he represented me and my country. That is, until the last few days.

On Wednesday President Joe Biden was in Israel for a few hours and met with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Herzog, the military cabinet and the families of those taken hostage. We will always recall his strength of conviction, his empathy and his reassuring words. I was very surprised to see PM Netanyahu dressed in an open collared shirt while the rest of those who were in official positions were dressed in suit and tie. What image was he trying to project? I frankly found it inappropriate to sit or stand with the most powerful political leader in the world and our good friend dressed in a casual manner.

On Thursday British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrived in Israel for a few hours to express his support and offer assistance to our country. Our Prime Minister dressed for the occasion in a black sport shirt just as he had done a few days earlier when he met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz who had come to Israel for the very same reasons. Was our Prime Minister attempting to out Zelensky Zelensky? We can understand and have accepted the fact that the President of Ukraine is dressed in what looks like green army fatigues, but what is it with the black sport shirt? If Prime Minister Netanyahu wants to show us that he is in full work mode, clothes will not convince us, only real leadership will.

I am saddened to have to write these words but I think this is the prevalent mood in the country. We want our Prime Minister to lead, to visit the wounded soldiers, to meet with the families of the hostages and to inspire us as President Joe Biden has done. We want our Prime Minister to at least acknowledge that mistakes were made leading to that terrible Shabbat and to hold a proper news conference where difficult questions can be asked.

Clothes don’t make the man but they do show a reflection of the person. I, for one, am not impressed with my Prime Minister’s attire. Some may call me old fashioned but I think he must rise to the occasion, dress appropriately as he meets with world leaders, and inspire us once more as a nation as he has done many times in the past.

Mr. Prime Minister please rise to the occasion and lead our nation to victory and hopefully to peace. I want you to succeed at this time for in your success our country and the entire Jewish people will be victorious.

About the Author
Rabbi Vernon Kurtz is Rabbi Emeritus of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park Illinois, an 1100 family congregation which he served for 31 years. He is past president of the international Rabbinical Assembly, MERCAZ USA and MERCAZ Olami, and is a member of the committees of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency and the Jewish People Policy Institute. He is also past president of the American Zionist Movement and a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Hartman Institute. He is the author of Encountering Torah - Reflections on the Weekly Portion. He and his wife Bryna made Aliyah in June 2019.