Hassidic leader: The state has no right to call itself 'Israel'

Vizhnitz Grand Rabbi says Israel not a Jewish state after Giro d'Italia bike race caused widespread mass public Shabbat desecration.

Tzvi Lev ,

Israeli flag (illustration)
Israeli flag (illustration)

The leader of one of the world's largest hassidic groups alleged that Israel no longer possessed any Jewish character after last week's Giro d'Italia bike race caused widespread Shabbat desecration.

"The Shabbat desecration taking place in the holy land takes away the power and the right of the state to be called 'Israel'. We have to this to the heads of states so that they'll know," said the Vizhnitz Grand Rabbi, or Rebbe.

According to the rabbi, "The right to exist in the holy land is the special power entrusted to people, but if we do not observe the minimum - the holy Shabbat, the foundation of the Jewish people - we remove the minimal connection to the State's right to exist."

On Saturday, cyclists rode 103 kilometers from Haifa to Tel Aviv in the second day of the international bike race. The immense logistics of the race meant that thousands of policemen and other government workers were forced to work on Shabbat, angering Israel's haredi and Religious Zionist communities.

National Union Secretary-General Ofer Sofer alleged that the rampant Shabbat violation caused by the race infringed on the delicate 'Status Quo' governing religion and state issues and apologized for "letting the State of Israel lose another part of its Jewish character".

According to Sofer, the race could have been held on a regular weekday, which would have spared the country from having to deploy thousands of policemen and other personnel on the Jewish day of rest.

"If the Giro was as important as a visit by the president of the United States, it would have been possible to block all the streets in the middle of the week in order for it to take place," said Sofer. "This quit behavior is a breach in the fence that will bring Israel to ruin, blurs its boundaries and endangers the Status Quo."

UTJ co-head and Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman also expressed anger at how the race was handled, pressing Prime Minister Netanyahu on Sunday to explain the "unnecessary Shabbat violations" and pressed the prime minister "to prevent it from happening in the future".

Litzman was joined by MK Moshe Gafni, who said that the impetus is on the government "to prevent events such as these on Shabbat and to watch over its holiness in the public sphere".