Rabbi Haim Druckman, a venerated spiritual leader of the religious Zionist movement and Rosh Yeshiva (dean) of the 'Or Etzion' yeshiva (religious academy), reacted with shock to the ferocious attack by hareidi Rabbi Shalom Cohen of Shas on the religious Zionist stream.
Rabbi Cohen - dean of the 'Porat Yoseph' yeshiva in Jerusalem and member of the hareidi Shas party's Council of Torah Sages - labelled religious Zionists “Amalek” and asked rhetorically, “are these even Jews?”, in a televised sermon delivered at week's end in the presence of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas's spiritual leader.
At one point, he specifically mentioned Rabbi Druckman by name, as he spoke disparagingly of the possibility that Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, a religious Zionist, would be appointed chief rabbi.
Rabbi Cohen added that he had said as much to Rabbi Eliyahu's father, the late Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, and that he had done so in the presence of “Druckman and all of the Amalek people.”
Amalek is a nation recounted in the Bible as the sworn enemies of the Jewish people, who attacked the Jews on several occasions as they were most vulnerable and with apparently genocidal intent. In response, the Jewish people were commanded by G-d to physically destroy the nation of Amalek.
The term 'Amalek' has since become a byword for those enemies of the Jewish people - from the Nazis to Hamas - who are sworn to its physical annihilation and, most crucially, who cannot be swayed by reason and can only be dealt with by force.
Desecration of G-d's Name
"The truth is that his words are not worthy of a response,” Rabbi Druckman said Sunday. “They themselves are the best response to the person who spoke them. But they constitute a 'hillul Hashem' [a desecration of G-d's name – ed.], and one is not allowed to ignore a 'hillul Hashem,' so me must react.”
"I cry out from the depth of my heart – where does such deep hatred come from? How far does it reach and to whom is it directed? Toward those who are true sons of Torah, who fulfil the complete Torah, which includes commandments that are between a person and his nation, his country and his state,” the rabbi explained.
Rabbi Druckman added that religious Zionism does not require a “stamp of kashrut” from the rabbinical court of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef for its sons and students, “for they are the ones who sanctify the Name of Hashem wherever they are.”
Rabbi Cohen's words - uttered in the presence of Rabbi Ovadia Yoseph, a leading Hareidi rabbi - will be seen as yet another worrying example of an escalated campaign of incitement by the hareidi leadership against other sectors of Israeli society.
Last week, such incitement was blamed for at least two separate violent attacks against hareidi-religious soldiers by hareidi extremists.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised a tough response to such attacks. It remains to be seen what action, if any, will be taken in response to this latest development