Israeli Heritage TV: Reform Jews Are the 'Fake Rolexes' of Judaism

Broadcasting body warns Channel 20, after post on station's official Facebook page equated Reform Jews with imitation sneakers and fake watches.

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Two Reform Jews pray at the Robinson's Arch, the proposed site for an egalitarian prayer space near the main Western Wall plaza.
Two Reform Jews pray at a gender-equal prayer service at the Western Wall: 'Let’s not counterfeit Judaism, let’s not divide the Wall,' Channel 20 said in the post. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Itay Stern
Itay Stern

The Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council has issued a warning to Channel 20 after the television station equated Reform Jews with imitation sneakers and fake watches in a Facebook post.

Representatives of the right-wing channel, which is dedicated to Jewish heritage programming, stated in the post that the Reform stream of Judaism cannot be considered Jewish.

The council’s chairwoman, Dr. Yifat Ben-Chai Segev, wrote in a statement that the council would impose a fine on the channel if it continues to exclude Reform Jews from their broadcasts.

“The council wishes to reiterate that it will strictly enforce the stipulations of the license, including the provision requiring the channel to give representation to all public streams. ... Ignoring this regulation will lead to the council enforcing its resolutions,” wrote Segev, adding that according to Jewish sages, “good neighborly manners preceded the Torah” throughout Jewish history.

The Facebook post showed photos of MKs Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) and Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union) wrapped in prayer shawls at the Western Wall plaza. It attacked Reform Rabbi Gilad Kariv, a Labor Party MK who had asked that the channel’s licence be revoked since it does not provide a platform for the Reform movement.

“We hereby state categorically that we don’t think Channel 20 should present attempts to divide and split the people of Israel,” wrote the channel’s representatives in their Facebook post. “There are fake Rolex watches and Adidas shoes all over the world. Let’s not counterfeit Judaism, let’s not divide the Wall. If one can’t divide Jerusalem, and one can’t, than surely the Western Wall plaza can’t be divided. That’s the beginning of the end. If our license is revoked because of Mr. Kariv, let it be so. The integrity of the Jewish people and of the Wall plaza are much more important and larger than anything else, even us.”

The council has fined Channel 20 in the past for violating the terms of its license, specifically for broadcasting news and current events, which it is not licensed to do. So far, the fines have amounted to 250,000 shekels ($64,000), but these haven't flustered the channel’s directors.

One of the provisions of the channel's license states that it should give space to all major Jewish streams, in Israel and abroad. The Reform movement sent a letter to the council’s chair last January, noting that a Channel 20 researcher had approached them several times, inviting them to appear on the air.

However, the invitation was always canceled in the end. They wrote that since the channel started operating, its editors have refused to accept content relating to Jews that are not affiliated with the Orthodox stream.

The council does not oversee Facebook entries associated with TV channels, but Segev referred to this in her statement as well: “The channel’s activities not through its broadcasts are not legally supervised by the council, but the council does view content appearing on digital media and in interviews with the channel’s directors as content that should be disseminated only with appropriate responsibility and mutual respect, with sensitivity and deference to the stipulations of the license, since such content is identified directly with the channel’s broadcasting.”

Channel 20 said that it “continues to operate according to the rules and directives of the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council.”

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