Only in Israel: Knesset Brouhaha over Purim Quote

Beit Shemesh mayoral candidate claims hareidi flyer that quotes Scroll of Esther incites violence.

Gil Ronen,

MK Yaakov Asher
MK Yaakov Asher
Flash 90

A shrill argument broke out Monday in the Knesset's Committee for the Interior between Eli Cohen, the Zionist candidate for mayor in Beit Shemesh, and hareidi MKs. At the center of the argument was a flyer that Cohen said was distributed in Beit Shemesh, and which contained thinly-veiled incitement against him.

"I will read out to you a message that was published by the hareidim this morning,” Cohen said. “It says, 'This is not Politics, This is your Life,' and underneath this it says, 'to assemble and protect themselves.' This is incitement.”

Cohen explained that 'to assemble and protect themselves' is a quote from the Scroll of Esther, which refers to the King's decree, issued to protect the Jews from slaughter by allowing them to annihilate their enemies. It reads, in full: “The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies.”

Taken in its entirety, Cohen explained, the verse constitutes grave incitement against the secular public, calling on the hareiem "to kill and annihilate" their rivals.

MK Yaakov Asher (United Torah Judaism) would have none of this. He blasted Cohen for “completing a verse” instead of quoting only what was written, and accused him of being a provocateur.

"The elections will be decided at the polling booths,” Asher reminded Cohen. “You are not even mayor, you are a candidate for mayor – give respect.”