Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the Bayit Yehudi party, reacted strongly Sunday to a scathing attack by Shas rabbi Shalom Cohen on religious Zionists, in which he called them “Amalek” and asked “are these even Jews?”
On his Facebook page, under the title “Shame on You!”, Bennett wrote: "For those who do not know, Amalek is the expression used for those who must be wiped off the face of the earth. No less. At this moment, thousands of wearers of knitted kippot [the kippot favored by the religious Zionists, ed.] are present along the borders, from that of Syria to that of Egypt, from the regimental commanders to the last soldiers, and spitting blood to defend all of us – including the respected rabbi.”
"These days, we are conducting memorial services for my comrades in arms from the Second Lebanon War, who gave their lives, some secular and some knitted kippot wearers. Some received IDF citations for their courage. The rabbi is calling them, too, Amalek.
In reference to Rabbi Cohen's derogatory use of the term "knitted kippot" to describe religious Zionist Jews, Bennett retorted:
"At this moment, thousands of knitted kippah boys are studying Torah with their rabbis and teachers in the hesder yeshivas and high yeshivas. At a later stage, they will serve in the IDF as well. The rabbi is calling all of these 'Amalek' and non-Jews.'
Kippot are the skullcaps traditionally worn by religious Jewish men. In the religious Zionist community, most tend to wear kippot made of knitted cloth, unlike many within the hareidi community, who mostly prefer a different style.
"These days,” Bennett added, “Bayit Yehudi is working ceaselessly to minimize the damage to the Torah world, and succeeding in this (yes, I have been banging on the table in this matter, even from faraway China).”
He said that Bayit Yehudi has also managed to make the government's plan for hareidi enlistment “more balanced toward the hareidi public” and to make sure that Torah study is recognized as a national value.
“But the Bayit Yehudi is Amalek, too,” he added bitterly.
"That is not all. In his sermon, Rabbi Shalom Cohen mentioned 'Drukman and all of the people of Amalek.' He meant, of course, Rabbi Druckman, Israel Prize laureate, Head of Or Etzion Yeshiva, the rabbi who recently celebrated his eightieth birthday in the presence of the prime minister, an event in which I participated along with thousands of students who took part in Bnei Akiva [youth movement].
“All of them are Amalkites, of course,” Bennett continued sarcastically.
"On the eve of Tisha B'Av,” he concluded, “I call upon all of the leaders and representatives of the hareidi public, from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who sat next to Rabbi Shalom Cohen during the sermon, to the political leaders: even if you are not in the government, even if there are political disagreements – you must denounce and censure such discourse. I ask and expect that you do so as early as this morning, before it is too late. I will not allow the incitement against the knitted kippot to continue. I am proud of the knitted kippot.”
Bennett's response came on the same day as yet another reported violent attack by hareidi extremists on a religious soldier. That attack is the third in Jerusalem in the last week alone, as hareidi extremists seek to discourage religious Jews from enlisting in the army.