The weekly satirical show “Eretz Nehederet” (lit. Wonderful Country), which airs on Channel 12, caused an uproar on Wednesday evening after airing a sketch in which an actor playing Education Minister Naftali Bennett is seen wearing a pair of tefillin on his head in imitation of the Israeli representative to the Eurovision Song Contest, Netta Barzilai.
"Tefillin mocked as a fashionable accessory. If such a parody would take place in Europe, we would all shout ‘anti-Semitism!’" said one user on social media.
Bennett's adviser, Amichai Siboni, tweeted, "Eretz Nehederet went too far. A lot of contempt for Judaism is needed to create such a sketch. Most of the pictures that mock tefillin were taken in Europe at a time when Jews did not survive afterwards.”
Another user tweeted, "The ancestors of all of us not many years ago – about 70 years – were burned alive only because of their insistence to put on tefillin. It is a disgrace to see how far we’ve gone.”
The Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau, condemned the incident as well, saying that "the use of religious articles in a mocking and insulting manner is terrible. It is unacceptable that such a thing be broadcast in the Israeli media and this is not culture or entertainment, it’s mockery of tefillin and of religious objects and a trampling of the feelings of millions of Jews.”
Rabbi Lau also said that he expects the program to issue an apology and not to air similar material in the future.
The production of "Eretz Nehederet" said in response: "The sketch dealt, among other things, with Netta Barzilai's winning of the Eurovision Song Contest and the extensive public discussion of the subject. Netta's hairstyle was incorporated on the heads of some of the characters participating in the sketch, in various variations. There was no intention to insult or degrade.”
The program has in the past come under fire for offensive or inappropriate content.
In 2016, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel condemned "Eretz Nehederet" for filming in a synagogue and utilizing a Torah scroll for "entertainment purposes".
Two years earlier, the show came under fire for its depiction of residents of Judea and Samaria in a manner that demonized them.