About 1,500 protesters were joined by prominent rabbis and right-wing leaders Monday evening outside of the Kan Public Broadcasting headquarters in Jerusalem as the condemnation of the channel's satirical sketch show intensified.
The mostly ultra-Orthodox and religious Zionist demonstrators held up signs decrying the program, "The Jews are Coming," which satirizes biblical and historical Jewish figures and events. One sign read, "The people demand a media respectful of Judaism," while others brandished signs with quotes from former prime ministers on the importance of respecting religion.
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The crowd was addressed by Shas MK Uriel Busso and head of the Hesder Yeshiva in Mitzpe Ramon, Rabbi Tzvi Kostiner, while the leader of the far-right, anti-miscegenation movement Lehava, Benzi Gopstein, was also in attendance, as was extremist figure Baruch Marzel.
During the protest, Kostiner demanded the media should "return to the people of Israel." He added that "We came to protest against the debasement of the holy figures of Israel and the great figures of Israel, and now they are also debasing the name of God." He continued, "The media educates the people of Israel against the Torah. They are collaborating with the gentiles."
In his address, Busso said that the demonstrators are asking the broadcast company to "represent the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob – respectfully. It can't be that they depict them satirically." He added, "Only here in Israel is it permissable to laugh like this about holy matters."
In a statement following the protest, Kan said: "'The Jews are Coming' is a satire program, and that is how it should be treated. Freedom of expression and freedom of creation are a supreme value in public broadcasting," as is the ability to laugh at ourselves, the statement said. "The right of the protesters to demonstrate is no less important."
The outcry against the show gained momentum a few weeks ago. On Sunday, Rabbi Zvi Thau, one of the most prominent figures in the religious Zionist movement, called for the demonstration, describing the show as "just one of many examples of the relentless attempts of a small and rude minority, constantly working in cooperation with foreign countries and organizations, to disrupt the thoughts of the Jewish public, to try to make us forget ourselves."
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Last week, the CEO of the Kan public broadcasting corporation, Eldad Koblenz, and the show’s producers provided police with hundreds of examples of harassing language and explicit threats, including physical ones, against the actors. Koblenz reported being threatened on social media, through text messages and by phone.
This came after the Education Ministry removed two links to sketches from the show from its website after demands from Shas lawmakers and broader calls from right-wing lawmakers for sanctions on Kan for broadcasting “The Jews Are Coming.”
Lawmaker Betzalel Smotrich previously wrote to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and demanded that he order the show halted, citing a clause in the penal code that forbids any public offense to faith or religious sentiments.