Yesh Atid MK's Skinny Jeans Arouse Controversy

In interview, MK and rabbi Shai Piron favors gay marriage, transport on Sabbath – but his whiskey trolley is what people discussed.

Gil Ronen ,

Piron's controversial photo
Piron's controversial photo
Arik Sultan, courtesy Makor Rishon

MK Shai Piron of Yesh Atid, a rabbi and until recently Israel's education minister, said in a weekend interview with Makor Rishon that he favors limited public transportation on the Sabbath, to and from places where people would go anyway for leisure and entertainment.

He also came out in favor of official recognition of same-sex unions as “marriages” – thus contradicting his earlier stated policy.

However, the interview's content has aroused much less controversy than the photo of Piron that graced it. In it, Piron – who was markedly overweight until he recently underwent weight loss surgery – poses at home in skinny jeans. Behind him is a panoramic window that hints at affluence, viewers found, and a cart with alcoholic drinks and a crystal cognac decanter. The fringes of his tzitzit are not visible.

Piron in 2012 with Yair Lapid Ben David / Flash 90

All in all – the image is a 180 degree reversal from the traditional orthodox rabbi's image in Israel, and from Piron's own image when he took office in 2013. It gave rise to numerous articles, social media comments and heated discussions throughout the religious-Zionist “migzar,” or sector.

In one response, Gil Beringer, a lawyer who works with Jewish Home, wrote in NRG that the picture is symbolic of a deeper change: "The clothes he chose, which would not shame a fashionably hip Tel-Avivian 20 years younger than Piron, are but a symptom for a much bigger problem: Piron's inner unrest and the attempt to solve real problems through fashionable solutions.”

Beringer claimed that Piron is, in this sense, “a typical product of the Yesh Atid party.”

"The external changes herald his desire to become a part of the group that he wishes to join, and this is done at a price...of ceasing to be who he is," Beringer said.

Others found this kind of criticism petty and said it reflected a stuffy, outdated conservatism.