A year out of power, Haredim hail government’s downfall, credit divine intervention

Ultra-Orthodox leaders and newspapers have rejoiced at the impending dissolution of the Knesset and government — the latter being one of the few in recent memory that didn’t include Haredi parties — and many attributed its downfall to divine intervention.

“His name is praised in the world!” said Rabbi Shalom Cohen, the spiritual leader of the Shas party, which represents Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews. “A government that harmed and tried to destroy Judaism and the sanctity of Israel and harmed the weak has been driven from the world. The holy one, blessed be he, has had mercy on the people of Israel.”

Cohen, 91, made his pronouncement from his hospital room on Monday night shortly after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced his plans to call for the dissolution of the Knesset, which will send the country back to elections for the fifth time in less than four years.

Cohen was not alone in his elation. Similar sentiments were expressed by other top Haredi rabbis and in ultra-Orthodox newspapers.

Haredi politicians and rabbis have furiously denounced the current government over the past year, mainly due to the actions of two of its members: Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Deputy Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana.

Liberman, who has firmly established himself as a political rival of the Haredi parties, raised their ire through a number of policies, including one that increased taxes on disposable tableware — which are used disproportionately by Haredi families — and another that would condition tax breaks for childcare on both parents being employed, which would hit ultra-Orthodox families hard because many Haredi men do not work and instead study in religious seminaries.

In his capacity as head of the Religious Services Ministry — first as minister and now as deputy minister with de facto control — Kahana introduced a number of reforms that have put him at odds with the Haredi establishment, notably the opening of the kashrut certification market to competition and a proposed law that would similarly allow conversions to Judaism to be performed by other religious authorities besides the Chief Rabbinate.

The Shas newspaper, Haderech, announced the dissolution of the government with the headline “And all the wickedness was consumed in smoke,” a line from the Yom Kippur liturgy.

Another Haredi newspaper, Yated Ne’eman, ran the headline: “The fall of the riffraff government: Israel is going to elections.”

Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, the spiritual leader of the Ashkenazi United Torah Judaism party, also rejoiced at the government’s downfall when he was informed of the development by Knesset member Yaakov Asher.

“It’s thanks to the public, it’s thanks to the Torah,” Edelstein said, in a video shared by his office.

Asher then incorrectly told him it was the “shortest-lasting government that ever was because they harmed spirituality.” (In fact, that distinction still belongs to the previous government, which lasted roughly 13 months, compared to the more than 16 months that the current coalition is projected to endure until elections can take place.)

Edelstein corrected Asher: “They didn’t succeed!”

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