Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism)
filed a complaint with the director general of the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) this week, regarding a television program on Jewish texts that is hosted by a secular writer and scholar.
The show in question, "Mekablim Shabbat" (welcoming the Shabbat), is hosted by Dov Elboim, a writer, journalist, scholar and lecturer in Jewish studies who grew up in an ultra-Orthodox home but later became secular.
In a letter to IBA head Motti Shklar, Porush wrote: "There is a show on Channel 1 called 'Parashat Hashavua,' which is aired on Saturday evening and in which the host interprets the Torah while not wearing a kippah.
"Moreover, a viewer who wrote to me said that the host's interpretations do not fall in line with the accepted interpretations in Judaism, and constitute a desecration of what Judaism holds sacred."
Porush asked Shklar to "try and improve the manner in which the show is presented, as well as its content, in a way that is acceptable to traditional viewers."
In his reply to Porush, Shklar wrote that the show was born of the need of the secular audience to "reconnect" to the contents of the bible, the weekly Torah portion and Jewish tradition. Since it first aired, the IBA has received thousands of letters from grateful viewers who said the program helped them get closer to Judaism, Shklar noted.
"A large part of the show's success stems from the fact that the host approached the reading of the weekly Torah portion from an open and tolerant perspective, which allows any viewer, regardless of his social background, to read the bible in his own way," Shklar stated.
"This is the beauty of the show, and this is how it has won the public's trust."
According to the IBA head, the show enjoys very high ratings.
As to the question of the host being non-religious, Shklar said, "True, the host does not wear a kippah on a daily basis, and there is no reason why he should change his habit. This, of course, does not constitute a show of disrespect towards to bible and the Jewish tradition.
"On the contrary, the host has the utmost love and respect for the tradition and its content, but surely people who do not wear a kippah also have the right and the obligation to be part of the Jewish tradition, in their own way."