Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu caused controversy among his Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox coalition members in Sunday’s cabinet meeting when he issued a warning to Israelis planning to travel to Uman, Ukraine to visit the grave of the popular Hasidic Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.
“Israeli citizens traveling to Ukraine must bear personal responsibility for their travel at this time. God did not always protect us, not on European soil nor on Ukrainian soil,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister also warned that due to the conflict in Ukraine, Israel could not guarantee the safety of any citizen visiting the country during the fall holidays.
United Torah Judaism Knesset Member Yisrael Eichler responded harshly to Netanyahu's comments.
“For more than a century, the God of Israel has been saving the Land of Israel from the hands of the gods of power, evil culture and assimilation of the secular regime. The Zionists and partisans did not prevent a Holocaust in Europe,” said Eichler after the meeting.
“At a time when terror is rampant and the streets are burning, we must pray to the Guardian of Israel,” he continued. “If not for the merit of the Torah keepers, the State of Israel would have long ago been erased from the map of the Middle East. The Guardian of Israel will keep the remnant of Israel, those who say ‘Shema Yisrael’.”
Eichler accused Zionists of abandoning Jews in the Holocaust.
The ultra-Orthodox Shas party also released a statement: “God has always protected the people of Israel during all its exiles and persecutions. That is the reason the people of Israel are the only ones who have miraculously survived for thousands of years while many other powerful peoples have disappeared. Of course, the condition for divine protection is faithfulness and keeping the Torah and commandments.”
Several Haredi newspapers also slammed Netanyahu for his comments.
“When the 'head of the faith-based camp' opens his mouth with grave heresy, all in an official statement from the Prime Minister's Office, the entire theory of sweet Israel collapses like a tower of cards," wrote Aryeh Erlich, editor of the ultra-Orthodox “Mishpochah” (Family) newspaper.
"Where there is blasphemy and base and rude speech towards Heaven, no respect is to be paid to Bibi. Shame on you, Bibi. You are not worthy of our trust.”
Erlich even wrote on social media that “it’s time for Gantz.”
The Haredi reaction did not go unanswered, however.
Education Minister Yoav Kisch of the Netanyahu-led Likud party said Eichler should “retract the anti-Zionist slurs.”
“As the grandson of Brigadier Kisch who fought the Nazis, as a Zionist, as a Jew and as a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces who fought our enemy, I am ashamed of what you wrote,” Kisch stated.
Yisrael Beytenu opposition party leader Avigdor Liberman said it is the secular who are sending their sons and daughters “to defend the homeland at the risk of their lives.”
“It's a shame that instead of a secular regime we got a sick regime. The messianic, ultra-Orthodox and anti-Zionist coalition that is leading the State of Israel to oblivion must disintegrate, the time has come for a wall-to-wall Zionist and liberal coalition,” Liberman said.
On Monday, sources close to Netanyahu released a statement clarifying his intentions in making the statement yesterday.
"The prime minister said in his remark yesterday that a miracle should not be expected, and even quoted the commandment, 'You shall keep watch over your souls.' His only intention was to appeal to Breslov Hasidim to internalize the danger and take appropriate precautions so that they return safely."
Last September, as many as 30,000 ultra-Orthodox Israelis were planning their annual journey to the Ukrainian town of Uman during the Jewish New Year. Ultra-Orthodox Jews from the Hasidic groups revere Rabbi Nachman as one of the most important figures in recent Jewish history. His grave is a regular site of pilgrimage for Hasidic Jews, especially around holidays.
Earlier this month, ALL ISRAEL NEWS reported the potential closure of Ukraine, when its President Volodymyr Zelenskyy threatened to close its borders in response to Ukrainian tourists being deported from Israel.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.