Tuesday, 7.1.2020, the paper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that the Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi yitzhak yosef ‘Rishon LeZion’ was filmed speaking out against the immigration from the Former Soviet Union at a convention in Jerusalem.
At the convention, Rabbi Yosef ‘Rishon LeZion’ said to those present:
Hundreds of thousands or tens of thousands of gentiles came to the country because of the ‘Who is Jewish’ law. There are many-many gentiles here. Some of whom are communists, who are hostile towards religion, hate religion. They are not Jews at all, gentiles. Then they vote for parties that incite against the Ultra-Orthodox and against religion. They go to church every Sunday. They were brought here to act as a counterbalance to the Ultra-Orthodox, so that if there were elections, the Ultra-Orthodox would not have much. That is what they brought them to the country for, total gentiles.Much to our dismay, we see the fruits of their incitement.
Chairman of Blue and White Benny Gantz responded:
“The Temple was destroyed because of unnecessary hatred. The Sephardi Chief Rabbi should apologize as soon as possible for his words. The Zionist vision encourages Aliyah (immigration to Israel) and the ingathering of the exiles to the Land of Israel and the State of Israel since the dawn of Zionism. We have established ourselves militarily, economically, and culturally, and in part due to the Aliyah from the Former Soviet Union–the Aliyah that brought with it welcomed cultural, scientific, and social baggage. The Russian speaking Israelis, those who immigrated and those who were born here, are equal in Israeli society. They are patriots who serve in the IDF, they are in all key positions in the country. And we will make sure that this trend grows and strengthens. The strength of the Jewish Nation is in it’s unity”.
Chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu Avigdor Lieberman:
“Just a few days ago the Chief Rabbi of Israel mocked the secular when he suggested they go to Ashdod to eat pig and today he is already inciting against immigrants from the Former Soviet Union, who work, serve in the army, do reserve duty, pay taxes, and contribute to the country. The Chief Rabbi, who is supposed to be a spiritual figure for the whole public is scathingly disparaging parts of it. The Rabbi’s statement are racist and Antisemetic and we cannot let this go by. We demand his suspension from his job immediately and we will act in the near future to have a Chief Rabbi chosen from Religious Zionism, who will know how to include and embrace and not divide. I expect the heads of all parties to not remain silent like fish and to sharply condemn Rabbi Yosef’s words, to prevent a deadly blow to the delicate makeup of Israeli Society”.
Chairman of Machane Democrati MK Nitzan Horovitz:
“Another racist speech from the Chief Rabbi and more incitement against those who are not Jewish enough in their eyes. And today it is the turn of immigrants from the Post-Soviet states, who, in the opinion of Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef and no more that ‘masses of religion hating gentiles.’ We can stop being horrified and start acting. This hate speech just proves again how important our long struggle to cancel the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly is.The problem is not one Rabbi or another. One incites against immigrants, a second against women, and a third against LGBTQ. The problem is the entire Chief Rabbinate. The fact that in 2020 this outdated institution still has such meaningful influence on our personal lives is a disgrace to the State of Israel. The train has left the station. Just as we succeeded in other stubborn battles against forced religion, I have no doubt we will succeed here as well. In the next government we will demand the cancellation of the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly on Kashrut, marriage, and conversion, and the dismantling of the Ministry of Religion”.
MK Yair Lapid, Blue and White:
“Immigrants from the Post-Soviet states are combat soldiers in the IDF who protect our lives, they are doctors, nurses who are now in hospitals. These immigrants are the base for the Israeli high-tech industry. These immigrants are our brothers. What happened to accepting Judaism that does not deal in insults? The Chief Rabbi must apologize for his shameful and severe words”.
MK Michael Malkieli (Shas) responded to Lapid:
“Don’t lecture Rabbis about what to say and who decided you should be giving them scores. Every word said by the Rabbi is carefully considered, measured, and supported by Halacha (Jewish law). The Rishon LeZion (Chief Rabbi) is a unifying figure for all populations, so that you, Mr. Lapid are the one that should apologize and soon”.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud):
“An outrageous and inappropriate comment. The immigration from the FSU is a huge blessing to the State of Israel and the Jewish People. The government lead by me will continue to act to bring and incorporate immigration of our brothers and sisters from Post-Soviet states”.
Shas published the following statement:
“The person responsible for incitement and division between those who keep (Jewish) traditions and immigrants from Post-Soviet states is Avigdor Lieberman. His personal hatred towards Netanyahu drives him crazy and that is he thinks about all day, his attempts to remove PM Netanyahu from his job and to gather votes by incitement between parts of society. The Rishon LeZion (Chief Rabbi) spoke out of pain and concern for the whole People Israel in light of the campaign of cynical and unceasing incitement led by Lieberman against all those who keep Torah and tradition. The valued public from the FSU loves Jewish tradition and shakes off the inciting and dividing ways of Lieberman and his party”.
Minister of Diaspora Affairs MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud):
“Our brothers immigrants from the FSU are an inseparable part of the People Israel and their donation to the State of Israel is enormous. The legitimate argument over religion and state must not spill over into personal attacks on immigrants from Post-Soviet states”.