The inclusion of footage of a synagogue in a promo for the 13th season of the satirical television program "Wonderful Country" ("Eretz Nehederet") has infuriated both the Chief Rabbinate and the religious services minister, who say it demonstrates contempt for sacred objects.
The footage showed people standing around an open Torah scroll, with an open ark containing other Torah scrolls visible behind them.
“The Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the chief rabbis and the religious services minister vehemently denounce the use of Torah scrolls and a synagogue by a satire program for the purposes of entertainment,” the rabbinate said in a statement yesterday. “A synagogue is a house of prayer, and Torah scrolls are the most sacred objects in Judaism. Jews throughout the generations have given their lives to avoid damaging their sanctity.”
Moreover, the statement said, Israelis who visit the synagogue for prayer or study feel a sense of awe and reverence for the site, “and cheap usage of this sort constitutes the crossing of a red line, arousing shock and disgust in the heart of every Jew. We expect others, even if they don’t pray, to respect this community and its feelings.”
Journalists from the ultra-Orthodox community, to which Religious Services Minister David Azoulay belongs, were equally furious.
“The shame and the outcry should be directed at the sexton of the synagogue who permitted this contempt for and desecration of the sacred,” tweeted Itzik Sudri, a former spokesman of Azoulay’s Shas party who is currently a journalist for the ultra-Orthodox website Kikar Shabbat. Sudri added that he would be happy to take personal action against the sexton.
Shalhevet Hasdiel, founder of the ultra-Orthodox lifestyle website Fine, tweeted, “It’s not funny. To film a satirical program in a synagogue, in front of an open Torah scroll, is a tasteless joke.”
It isn’t the first time “Wonderful Country” has filmed in a synagogue. Back in 2008, it filmed a skit of a family celebrating their son’s bar mitzvah in a synagogue. Nor is this the first time the show has outraged the religious community. Religious Zionists were upset over a series of skits involving a fictional spokeswoman of the Yesha Council of settlements, saying the way the character was depicted was insulting.
During one wave of criticism against the show, pictures were circulated of its executive producer, Muli Segev, dressed in an SS uniform.
“Wonderful Country” said in a statement that the latest promo “was filmed in honor of the start of the 13th season and the program’s ‘bar mitzvah celebration.’ Therefore, we naturally chose the location where the entire nation of Israel marks this event. Anyone who seeks any other explanation does so strictly for his own reasons.”