Reform Jews to Blame for Earthquake in Northern Israel, ultra-Orthodox Lawmaker Says

In a Knesset debate on the egalitarian prayer space in the Western Wall, Lawmaker Yinon Azoulay suggests Reform Jews take the money they invest in Israel and 'build a Kotel in the U.S.'

Lawmaker Yinon Azoulay (Shas) in the Knesset plenum, March 13, 2018, Jerusalem
Noam Revkin-Fenton

Lawmaker Yinon Azoulay (Shas) said Wednesday that Reform Jews "are not Jews" and blamed the minor quakes in the Galilee Wednesday morning on the lobby to build an egalitarian prayer space in the Western Wall.

Speaking at a Knesset debate on the contested mixed-gender prayer space in the Western Wall, Azoulay said: "Today we heard there was some kind of earthquake, maybe we should do some soul-searching that this earthquake was because someone is trying to touch that which is sacred to us? Hear our pain, they are not Jews."

"What do you have to do with the ancient stones of the Kotel?" Azoulay asked, suggesting that Reform Jews "take the money you invest in the State of Israel and build a Kotel in the U.S."

Azoulay also went on to criticize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to recognize the "disaster" that is the Women of the Wall and the Reform Jews.

On Sunday, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev addressed Reform Jews by saying: "I've met reforms in Argentina. They were very nice, but they should be reform in Argentina. Here in Israel they should behave" like they're in Israel.

Following Regev's statement, Executive Director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism Gilad Kariv said: "The rabbinical institution and national Haredi factors who invaded Likud are laying siege to the Israeli government and turning its ministers into collaborators in an organized campgain of unjustified hatred."

The ministers' conduct, Kariv said, resembled that of the wise men of Jerusalem from the Jewish parable Kamsa and Bar Kamsa, whose silence and lack of leadersip led to the zealots' victory and the fall of the second temple.

Regev resigned as head of the comittee last week, saying her conscience does not allow her to convene the committee and approve the work to prepare the historic archeological site for mixed-gender prayer, and that she doesn't want to see women wearing prayer shawls in the Western Wall.

Before becoming minister, Regev was a staunch supporter of "every citizen's right to pray in the sites holy to the," as she wrote in a Facebook post in 2013. Once a minister, she also voted in favor of the egalitarian prayer space, which the Knesset approved and later rescinded.