Poking fun at the finance minister's appeal to the fictional Asher from Jerusalem, and Haim from Bnei Brak, the Bnei Brak-based writer and educator Chaim Walder invoked "Itay and Guy, who have brilliant minds for the study of Gemara," entreating them to "bear the burden of Israel and fortify the things that we believe ensure our stay in this country. I know it can sound ludicrous, but we snigger when Lapid says that youths living in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem arming themselves with weapons and math would make things better here."
Two weeks ago, Walder started a controversy by playing the Nazi card, comparing Lapid's rhetoric with Hitlerian propaganda. He now qualified those statements, saying "I believe that in his heart of hearts he does not hate haredim, but the words issuing out of his mouth foment hatred and cause those who already hate to hate even more."
"Personally I know Lapid is a good person. I even know of a case in which he himself helped a haredi person without making sure that the matter gets published," Walder further added. "He is not a bad man, but he rides on a populist wave of hatred for haredim and hatred of the other and this should not happen."
"Kahane too was charismatic and persuasive, yet he was arrested because some things cannot be uttered," Walder said, referencing late controversial far right leader Rabbi Meir Kahane. "Why what is forbidden with respect to Arabs is allowed when it's haredim? His beautiful words are no help if he accompanies them by statements to the effect that we hang on his neck like parasites. To be clear, those haredim who work certainly did not live at the expense of the public, and yeshiva students do not live on State benefits, let him take the NIS 200 and see how they continue to get along."
Earlier Wednesday, Lapid held a press conference in which he voiced a decisive yet amicable message. "I wish to appeal to my haredi brothers," Lapid said at the outset. "Not to the haredi politicians, neither to haredi wheeler dealers."
Having previously used the fictional Riki Cohen to get his financial policies across to the public, Lapid resorted to the same device, conjuring up Asher, a 28-year-old father of five from Jerusalem, and Haim, a 16-year-old whippersnapper from the haredi enclave Bnei Brak. "You must understand," he said, engaging in a dialogue with his fictional creations, "that they are out to intimidate you so they could control you."
Lapid referred to the spiritual leaders of the ultra-Orthodox sector, who, he intimated, resort to belligerent rhetoric to cement their loosening grip on their devotees.
The finance minister further added that "What is concurring is not an attack on the world of Torah. We have no intention of imposing secular values and our way of life on you, nor our version of 'Israeliness.' This state was created so that people could live as Jews without fear of prosecution. Yet we can't go on like this. If Syria is falling apart and thousands of al-Qaeda terrorists are laying siege on our borders, this is your problem as well, and we need you there wielding weapons."
United Torah Judaism Chairman MK Yakov Litzman slammed the bill formulated by the Peri Committee, saying its recommendations represented "a disgrace to the State of Israel, and of course they will not be implemented because they are populist and unrealistic."
Litzmann added: "Israel was victorious throughout its history in its battles against the enemies of religion. Nor in the future will a situation arise in which someone wishing to study Torah in Israel should find himself in jail. Netanyahu will go down in infamy for lending support to the prosecutors of Torah."
The Peri Committee approved Wednesday a proposal to extend the transition period for implementation of the draft law by another year – in place of the three years initially proposed, to four years under an agreement between Yesh Atid and the Likud.
The clause in the bill imposing criminal sanctions on draft dodgers including yeshiva students was passed. However, unlike the original agreement, a sub-section which would have allowed the defense minister to intervene on the issue was removed. The law is now expected to go for cabinet approval and then to the Knesset.
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