It is unthinkable that a religious leader would use expressions resembling a call for civil war, The Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel said Monday after former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, the Religious Zionism leader, said that the movement's synagogues "have the fragrance of hell".
Following a halachic ruling issued by the rabbi, in which he stated that one must not enter or pass by these prayer houses, the Conservative Movement announced that it planned to take legal action against Eliyahu and demanded an apology.
"Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu crossed the line, and has humiliated an entire public with his remarks which are filled with hate and incitement," said Attorney Yizhar Hess, head of the Conservative Movement.
"The rabbi should take back his words and apologize to the millions of Jews whose dignity he hurt," Hess said.
Rabbi Barry Schlesinger, head of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel, sent a personal letter to Rabbi Eliyahu, in which he told him that his remarks had contributed to "sinat chinam" (hating for no reason) and have given a bad reputation to the movement's prayer houses and places of Torah study, where millions of Jews engage in Torah study, work and charity, in Israel and abroad.
"The rabbi must self-examine himself and for forgiveness," Schlesinger said in his letter.
The Conservative Movement announced that it would sue the rabbi for slander.
Rabbi Eliyahu made the remarks during his weekly sermon last week, which was quoted by the synagogue leaflet "Kol Tzofaich".
"I was once invited to a building housing three synagogues on three floors," the rabbi was quoted as saying. "At the entrance I saw a sign indicating that a Reform prayer house is located on the first floor, a Conservative synagogue on the second floor, while the Orthodox place of Torah study is only on third floor. And I wondered: How can I enter and pass by these synagogues which have the fragrance of hell?"